The Egyptian military has carried out mass home demolitions and forced eviction of nearly 3,200 families in the Sinai Peninsula since July 2013, in violation of international law, a newly published report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) has claimed.
Entitled ‘Look for Another Homeland’, the 84-page report documents the government’s failure to provide adequately for residents during and after the evictions, which were carried out in a once-populated buffer zone on the border with the Gaza Strip.
The Egyptian Government had planned to clear approximately 79km² on the Gaza border, including all of Rafah, in an effort to close smuggling tunnels that are said to be used by insurgents affiliated with Islamic State, to receive weapons, fighters, and logistical support from Gaza.
After analysing video footage of the evictions and more than 50 commercial satellite images recorded over the buffer zone between March 2013 and August 2015, HRW said the Egyptian authorities provided little or no warning of the evictions and no temporary housing to residents.
The government also allegedly offered inadequate compensation for destroyed homes and denied residents an effective way to challenge their eviction, home demolition, or compensation.
HRW Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson said: "Destroying homes, neighbourhoods, and livelihoods is a textbook example of how to lose a counterinsurgency campaign.
"Egypt needs to explain why it didn’t use available technology to detect and destroy the tunnels and instead wiped entire neighbourhoods off the map."
Additionally, the Egyptian government failed to provide proof that insurgents receive military support from Gaza.
According to the watchdog, these actions violated protections for forcibly evicted residents that are laid out in UN and African conventions to which Egypt is a party, and may also have violated the laws of war.
HRW has urged the Egyptian government to stop the demolitions, offer adequate compensation and urgent accommodation to displaced families in need, and also allow journalists and independent observers into to North Sinai.
Image: The Egyptian military destroys a building in Rafah, on the border with the Gaza Strip, during forced evictions in October 2014. Photo: Still from Youtube Video.