Egypt Watch

Sinai: Families survive in freezing conditions

Last week, Sinai witnessed very cold weather because a polar storm struck the area leaving thousands of the displaced, who left their houses as a result of the military operations of the Egyptian army against Wilayet Sinai, which is affiliated to ISIS, in freezing temperatures. This suffering could be doubled as 4,000 families living in Arish could lose their houses for the development of Arish’s Port at any moment.

Thousands of North Sinai residents have been forced to leave their houses over the past seven years due to the military conflict. Most of those displaced people are from Rafah and Sheikh Zuwaid, as well as Bir Al Abd, which also came under the control of ISIS for several months. The army prevents the return of the displaced because the military operations are still ongoing. In the case of the displaced from Rafah, there is no hope for returning after the establishment of a buffer zone between Rafah on the Egyptian side and Gaza.

Social media was flooded with news about the displaced people, while the government showed inaction towards their suffering. Calls have been released to rescue the displaced particularly those who lost their houses in Rafah for the buffer area yet received no indemnity from the army.

Ibrahim Al Menai’y, one of tribes’ sheikhs, stated that all Sinai citizens suffer during the winter because of the cold weather. According to Manai’y, they used to support their houses during winter using plastic and palm leaf, and light fires for warmth, but the military operations made such practices difficult. “This has dispersed citizens and aggravated their suffering during winter in the absence of governmental support,” said Al Menai’y. “Moreover, the indemnities for the seized houses and farms have been delayed, and they are too low to help the people buy new houses.”

In a similar vein, 4,000 families in the east of Arish live in fear as their houses could be taken for the project of developing the port. In January, residents of Sakaseka and Reissa, east of Arish, found a delegation from the city’s council, the housing directorate and the administration of state’s properties making distant assessments of the houses. The residents know that their area has been suggested to be added to the project of Arish International Port.

In 2018 the state announced the project of expanding Arish Port and in 2019 a presidential decision was issued by the Official Gazette to allocate the lands around it, expanding 371 acres, for the project so that it was at the armed forces’ disposal, and assigned to the Suez Canal Economic Zone funding, implementing and managing the port. The residential area was not included in the allocated lands. In January, residents demonstrated against the inclusion of their neighbourhood. Government officials who went to calm the residents said that they were just implementing higher orders.

MP of Arish, Rahmy Bakir, declared that he requested a briefing from the Prime Minister and the ministers of treasury and transport regarding the project, and the facts about the inclusion of these residential areas in the project.