CAIRO: A dispute between two Bedouin tribes, in which security forces intervened, led to retaliation by one of the tribes that attacked Al-Oja border crossing with Israel Tuesday, leaving two people injured.
Bedouin spokesman and member of one of the tribes involved – the Tarabeen – Sheikh Mussa Al-Dilh told Daily News Egypt that the dispute erupted in the Sheikh Zuwayed area after a suspected rape incident.
According to Al-Dilh, a young man from the Abu Araj tribe was in a relationship with a young woman from the Tarabeen. The relationship was discovered by the woman’s brother, and she alleged that she had been raped by the man.
Some of the younger members of the Tarabeen tribe immediately headed to the area inhabited by the Abu Araj tribe to launch an attack in defense of the girl’s honor. The Tarabeen youth burned houses and killed livestock, injuring an elderly man.
Additionally, some of those who participated in this initial attack were wanted by security forces, Al-Dilh said. The Abu Araj tribe notified the authorities of the incident and they conducted a raid on the suspects, arresting three.
Rumors abounded among the Tarabeen that the raid was violent and that security forces broke into houses and attacked female members of the tribe. In retaliation, the tribesmen attacked Al-Oja crossing without consulting the tribal elders, Al-Dilh stressed.
According to AFP, the attack was conducted by dozens of tribesmen, some firing rocket-propelled grenades. Two people – a police officer and a customs official, Mohammed Sherif – were wounded and part of the crossing point was damaged.
Security forces regained control of the crossing point soon after, and Al-Dilh said the Bedouins managed to contain the situation within half an hour of the attack in coordination with the authorities.
North Sinai Tagammu secretary of organization Ahsraf Al Hefny gave a different view of events, but added that in Sinai, all the disputes were interlocked.
He told Daily News Egypt that the reason for the attack was because authorities reneged on a promise to release seven incarcerated Bedouins from the Tarabeen tribe.
His version of events at Al-Oja was that the Tarabeen tribesmen surrounded the crossing point for over an hour and attacked it, but did not attempt to break through before security forces took over.
“I don’t agree with the way the situation was handled but in the matter of honor often one cannot help himself, Al-Dilh told Daily News Egypt. The Bedouin spokesman added that the attack on the crossing point was something he vehemently rejected.
“We can solve tribal disputes among ourselves, he said, “but there is absolutely no reason to attack a vital and strategic location for the state such as Al-Oja. We refuse this and we want to avoid any confrontations with the state.
“A dialogue has emerged between us and security forces and we want to continue to follow this path. [For this end] we intend to completely prohibit any firing of weapons or assaults in public locations such as Al-Oja or schools and other public spheres.
The border with Israel has become an international issue due to the smuggling of arms through tunnels underneath the border into the Gaza Strip. Both Israel and the US feel Egypt can do more to prevent the smuggling, but Egypt insists a treaty signed with Israel in 1979 limits the number of security forces it can place on the border and is making it difficult to effectively secure the border.
Speaking to Middle East reporters in Washington Tuesday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “Egypt has to do more. Those tunnels need to be dealt with.
Rice also said that the US was willing to offer technical assistance to Egypt if that would help shore up the porous border.
“The Egyptians have said that they want some, perhaps, technical help. We’re prepared obviously, to give that, but it’s also – you know, the will to do it is very important here, she said.
Al Hefny said, “There are a lot of problems in Sinai, mentioning that a Tagammu party member was shot in a supermarket but was unharmed.
“There are militias and everyone is armed and security forces are nowhere to be found. When we complain to them they tell us to solve our own problems. And tribal disputes are always ongoing, he added.
“Sinai is a volcano waiting to erupt, a catastrophe will happen eventually, he warned.