Civilian deaths and postponed start to school year mark North Sinai conflict
A school in Rafah, North Sinai

Several Arish residents were killed by armed militants last week in the midst of the ongoing security campaign carried out by Egyptian forces that began in August. Authorities in Rafah also announced on Saturday that the start of the academic year would be postponed for two weeks, as roads leading into the city remain closed.

The most recent attack occurred on Friday, following a major security campaign carried out in the south of Arish. Four armed militants shot and killed a 50-year-old cafe owner in the North Sinai capital’s Rifai Square where the man’s cafe is located, eyewitnesses told Mada Masr. According to these accounts, the assailants fled the scene in a car after shooting the man, who was sitting in his cafe.

The activities of the Islamic State affiliate Province of Sinai were concentrated in the south of Arish last week, particularly in the areas of Safa, Salayma and Souq al-Khamis. Province of Sinai militants have carried out a number of attacks against police officers and civilians in these areas in the past year, attacks that include house bombings.

On Thursday, an explosion that targeted an Armed Forces tank traveling along the Hassana road in the south of Arish left one soldier dead. The attack was later claimed by the Province of Sinai.  

Unknown assailants also shot at three young men sitting in front of a house in the Souq al-Khamis area on Thursday, an eyewitness told Mada Masr. One of the men who belongs to the Shorbagy tribe suffered a gunshot wound to the head and died immediately, while another was shot in the foot. The third man was abducted by the assailants, according to eyewitnesses.

Inside the courtyard of the Abbas al-Akkad school in the Ahraash neighborhood of Rafah

Meanwhile, conditions in the border city of Rafah continue to deteriorate, as the military campaign in the city intensifies. A medical source told Mada Masr that a child was treated at Arish public hospital after being shot in his leg on Friday near his home in Massoura village in western Rafah. A number of residents in the city told Mada Masr that the body of a man from the Roumailat tribe was found on Friday, after he was kidnapped by militants several weeks ago.

The North Sinai Governorate also announced on Saturday the commencement of the academic year for all of the governorate’s public schools, except those in Rafah, where the start of classes will be postponed for two weeks.

A school teacher who works in Rafah and lives in Arish told Mada Masr that some teachers tried to travel to their schools in Rafah last week to prepare for the new year but found the only route to the city closed to automobiles and pedestrians.

Those teachers that tried to travel by foot discovered that they had to turn back to Arish at the security checkpoint. However, due to the curfew imposed on the city, security prevented them from traveling, and they were forced to wait until the next morning to return home and were unable to communicate with their families due to the communications blackout, according to the teacher in Rafah.  

Rafah has been the site of an ongoing large scale security campaign since August. All the main entrances to the city have been closed, straining the supply of food and other services. This was coupled with orders for residents to leave western Rafah to allow for the installation of new military equipment, which forced the families to camp inside the Abbas al-Akkad School in the Ahrash neighborhood.

“Rafah residents are not concerned with the start of the academic year, but they are concerned with getting food to their children,” the teacher said. “There is nothing to eat in the city, and grocery stores only have bottled water.”

Translated by Mai Shams El-Din

Mourad Higazy 

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