CAIRO: State officials in North Sinai have told Bedouin tribal leaders they are willing to reconsider the status of detained tribesmen as well as those who have been charged in absentia.
Almost 1,000 Sinai Bedouins are currently detained for various offences, mainly arrested in crackdowns in the wake of terrorist bombings in Sinai in 2005 and 2006.
There are others who are not held by the state but have already been sentenced in absentia. The detentions and security crackdowns has been a source of tension between the state and the tribes.
“There was a promise to tribal leaders that the status of the detainees will be reconsidered, North Sinai Tagammu party member Khalil Jabr Sawarkeh told Daily News Egypt.
“The state is trying to win over the tribes for fear of any continued trouble with them in the future, he said.
Additionally, there may be another reason officials agreed to reconsider the status of the detainees. According to a Sinai source who requested anonymity, authorities want to mobilize around 1,000 members of the Bedouin tribes to train them as a security force in North Sinai, which is why officials have taken a more conciliatory approach to the tribes.
The relationship between the state and the tribes has also been tense due to their proximity with Egypt’s borders with Gaza and Israel. The state has often accused members of the Bedouin tribes of being involved in smuggling activities.
Commenting on the shooting of Egyptian border guard Ahmed Shaaban on Jan. 6 during a demonstration on the Palestinian side of Rafah, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Wednesday that Shaaban was not killed by Hamas snipers. He refuted Egypt’s official claims, saying that Shaaban was mistakenly shot by the Egyptian side as they aimed at two Palestinian teenagers near him.
He cited the comments of the Ministry of Health Representative in Northern Sinai, Tarek Al-Mahalawy, who had said that Shaaban was killed by two shots in the back.
On Monday Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit had said Egypt knew the names of the snipers that killed Shaaban and would request that Hamas have them arrested.
“We know their names and we shall request that they be apprehended, he said, “and we shall see how Hamas deals with this matter.
Abu Zuhri, whose brother Yousef died in an Egyptian prison last year, expressed his astonishment with Aboul Gheit’s comments, saying it was an attempt to shirk responsibility and cover up Egyptian attempts to fire at Palestinian youths.
Sawarkeh told Daily News Egypt that the case of Shaaban would eventually be forgotten and neither Hamas nor Egypt would shoulder the blame.
“Our blood is cheap, and this file will be closed, he said.