Throughout the last week in North Sinai, Province of Sinai, an Islamic State affiliate in the peninsula, claimed responsibility for the assassination of two brothers near Rafah and the kidnapping of another man in Bir al-Abd. Meanwhile, staunch security measures continue in other cities across the region.
An assassination in Rafah and a kidnapping in Bir al-Abd
Last week, the Province of Sinai militant group, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014, published photographs of two brothers who they assassinated via their media arm Amaq. The photos were accompanied by a statement which claimed that the brothers were “agents of the Egyptian army.”
According to the photos, the men were killed in the al-Burth area, south of Rafah city. The group identified the victims as Ayesh and Gamal Sweilam Salman Sweilam.
The Union of Sinai Tribes, which consists of young men from several North Sinai tribes who cooperate with the Armed Forces in their war against militant insurgents, published photos of the deceased with an obituary stating that they belonged to the Tarabin tribe — one of the largest in Sinai.
Province of Sinai has assassinated numerous members of North Sinai tribes whom they suspected were cooperating with security forces.
Meanwhile, on August 4, a young man was kidnapped in Bir al-Abd city. According to one of the victim’s relatives, armed men stopped him and took him to an unknown location. The source stated added the man works in a construction site in New East Port Said City. The reason behind his kidnapping remains unknown.
The kidnapping comes days after armed assailants hijacked a government vehicle belonging to the North Sinai Electric Company in the Ghareef al-Ghazalan area near al-Rawda village on July 28, forcibly removing the driver and another company employee from the vehicle.
On July 7, dozens of armed members of the Province of Sinai stormed the village of Sadat near Bir al-Abd and roamed the streets, stopping residents and checking IDs.
Sheikh Zuwayed anticipating potential attacks
Residents of the North Sinai city of Sheikh Zuwayed were surprised by a request from security forces on August 3 ordering them to stay in their homes and requesting that shop owners to indefinitely close their businesses starting August 8, without providing an end date or information about why such measures were being taken. The residents believe that security forces are anticipating armed attacks inside the city.
People have abided by the instructions and have cleared the streets, the residents told Mada Masr. The weekly Tuesday market in the city center — an important hub of trade and activity, especially ahead of the Eid al-Adha holidays — was also cancelled.
Sheikh Zuwayed has witnessed two suicide bombings so far in 2019. The first attack occurred close to the Tuesday market in April, and killed five policemen, including the head detective of the Sheikh Zuwayed Police Station, and three civilians. The second attack took place in July, when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt the near the City Council, killing one soldier and one civilian, while injuring three soldiers. Province of Sinai claimed responsibility for both attacks through their media arm Amaq.
A source close to security forces in Sheikh Zuwayed city claims that the decision to cancel the market and close local shops was linked to information received that the Province of Sinai intends to carry out armed attacks, similar to the ones that they authored earlier this year inside the city’s residential area.
Security campaign ends in Arish, but bans on goods, fishing continue
After a siege that lasted 45 days, a joint campaign between the armed forces and the police in the neighborhoods of Arish’s fourth district came to an end.
Recent security campaigns started following a series of coordinated attacks on security checkpoints by the Province of Sinai inside the residential area of Arish in late June.
As part of the joint security campaign, security forces forced residents install security cameras on all corners of their buildings at their own expense so they can monitor houses and surrounding streets, residents reported. Security forces have also been destroying the homes of alleged terrorism suspects, as witnessed by Mada Masr’s reporter.
Residents of Arish have also been grappling with other forms of security measures such as the ban of various goods and supplies.
Two vendors of electrical equipment and spare vehicle parts told Mada Masr that the entry of goods through shipping companies has been affected by the stricter security measures, even for goods are accompanied by permits from the chamber of commerce. They added that security forces are preventing cargo trucks transporting any type spare vehicle parts through the Qantara West passageway. Coal is also among the goods that have been completely banned, according to one trader, who said the ban has significantly impacted business for him and fellow traders.
Residents of the Arish are also experiencing a severe weakness in telecommunication networks that is speculated to be part of the security measures. Although service has been cut off several times before for security purposes, residents said that they have never experienced this extent of weakening of phone networks before.
Meanwhile, a statement posted on the official Facebook page for the North Sinai Governorate titled “Good News” announced that the army will now allow fishermen to resume the practice of land-based fishing. Fishermen have faced a ban on all types of fishing since the start of Operation Sinai 2018 in February of last year.
Youssef Mohamed, a fisherman, told Mada Masr that the governorate’s latest decision is still unfair because land fishing, which consists of fishing with a net on the shore, is inefficient and inadequate compared to fishing from a boat at sea.