CAIRO: A border guard was injured during a shootout with smugglers in Sinai Sunday evening, 21 km south of the Rafah border crossing.
Ayman Mohamed Abdel-Fatah, 23, was shot in the back during the standoff with a group of alleged smugglers who were trying to infiltrate the border into Israel. He was taken to Al-Arish General Hospital and underwent immediate surgery.
Relations between the state and Sinai’s Bedouins are currently tense. Bedouins have long complained of severe crackdowns on their communities. The state claims that it is looking for smugglers wanted by the courts.
However, a recent attempt to defuse the heightened tensions led the Ministry of Interior to release Bedouin prisoners detained under the emergency law, some since 2002.
Interior Minister Habib El-Adly met with Bedouin representatives earlier this month in an attempt to calm tensions. However, further protests erupted in Central Sinai immediately after the meeting. Protestors complained that root Bedouin grievances had not been addressed.
The ministry announced that 16 Sinai prisoners would be released Monday, with another 200 cases under review leading to a potential release. Due to the recent amendments in the emergency law, many prisoners detained under the law were eligible for release starting June 1.
North Sinai Tagammu party member Khalil Jabr Sawarkeh told Daily News Egypt, “I don’t see the prisoners that we are looking for being released, like (Bedouin activists) Mosad Aboul Fajr and Yousri Abu Nusseira. They say they are trying to turn a new page but if they continue this way then nothing will change; they release one and arrest three.”
Shootouts had erupted last month between the two sides after security raids on the town of Wadi Amr and surrounding areas in Central Sinai as security forces sought wanted Bedouins. The raids angered residents, some of whom locked down the road leading to Al-Oja crossing.
Some of these residents are now wanted by security authorities because of these events, including Bedouin spokesman Moussa El-Dilh.
“There are still security harassments in Central Sinai. We are looking for assurances from high-ranking officials that these issues will be resolved,” he previously told Daily News Egypt.
According to sources in Sinai, El-Dilh has remained in Central Sinai and is willing to hand himself over to authorities if he can guarantee a fair hearing and trial, and if police officers are also called into question by authorities for their role in the recent conflicts.