Twelve days into Operation Sinai 2018, eyewitnesses report that a number of shells fell on residential buildings in the Zohour neighborhood in south Arish on Tuesday. The bombings caused the roof of one building to cave in, injuring a family of five who was later transported to Arish Hospital for medical treatment.
One Zohour resident, speaking on condition of anonymity, recounts being woken at 8 am by the sound of three distant explosions, something to which residents of North Sinai have become accustomed. “The explosions weren’t preceded by the sound of gunfire or clashes, but after a few minutes the reverberations got markedly closer. When we heard a loud explosion, residents of the neighborhood came out onto their balconies and began yelling to each other to leave the apartments and head out onto the streets.”
According to the source, a military plane flew overhead as residents heard the sound of consecutive explosions and observed plumes of smoke near the Masaeed neighborhood, which is next to Zohour. Then, the source says, there was a bigger explosion. “We couldn’t tell where it hit or where it was coming from. Complete silence fell over the area afterward. Then everyone started screaming and running. We could hear the sound of shrapnel and rubble hit the wall of the buildings, and smell the gunpowder was in the air.”
Another eyewitness who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity says, “I was asleep and I woke up panicked at 8:15 to the sound of a very large explosion. The television in my room fell off the table and the bed was shaking. I could hear residents shouting to one another to evacuate the buildings, so I left.”
The scene in the streets of Zohour resembled Eid morning prayers, according to the eyewitness. “Everyone was clustered together in the streets, except that they were all in their pyjamas and terrified. So much so that some niqabi women left their houses without their niqabs, and everyone who had a car took their family and fled. The sound of repeated explosions continued.”
Residents saw water gushing down the side of one of the residential buildings, the water tanks in pieces, the eyewitness recalls. The satellite dishes were also destroyed, and there was a gaping hole in the ceiling of one of the top-floor apartments in the eyewitness’ building.
The Zohour resident speculates that a shell hitting the roof caused the shaking felt in the building earlier, posing that it may have been a small shell, not one from a military plane, “because that would have taken down the whole building.”
A young man from Zohour documented the aftermath of the incident and posted the video on his Facebook account.
The family of five who were reported to have been injured were brought to Arish Hospital, a medical source in the city confirms. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source tells Mada Masr that the woman, man and three children sustained shrapnel injuries of moderate severity.
The Sinai Plus page on Facebook, which focuses on news coming out of the peninsula, posted eyewitness accounts on Tuesday of Egyptian military planes mistakenly shelling a military checkpoint close to Zohour. However, news websites quoting the Armed Forces spokesperson denied these reports, and the Sinai Plus accounts on Facebook and Twitter were taken down shortly after.
The Armed Forces launched Operation Sinai 2018 in North Sinai Governorate on February 9, with the intent of eradicated armed militants from the peninsula.
This is not the first time the Zohour neighborhood has been bombed during military operations in Arish.
In August of last year, Egypt’s Armed Forces launched a large-scale attack that targeted areas in southern Arish, including Zohour, and a number of shells struck residential buildings, killing a young man.
A resident of the area described the scene at the time, saying “We heard bullets hitting the walls of our buildings from the outside, and everyone inside was terrified.”