The government extended a curfew in North Sinai by three months, citing ongoing security concerns in the region.
The curfew was initially put in place for three months on October 25, after attacks on military checkpoints that killed more than 30 security personnel.
It was set to expire Sunday, but the Cabinet elected to extend it for an additional three months, Cabinet Spokesperson Hossam al-Qawish said during a telephone interview with private satellite channel CBC extra.
Qawish said that the ongoing unrest in the region convinced the government that the curfew and other security operations need to continue.
The curfew is now set to expire April 25.
It was originally imposed from 5 pm to 7 am each day, with anyone outside during curfew at risk of being shot or arrested. It has cut short working hours and transformed North Sinai’s cities into ghost towns.
In December, the hours were reduced in some parts of North Sinai to run from 7 pm to 6 am, after a meeting between President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and tribal elders in Sinai.
However, area residents told a Mada Masr correspondent in Arish that the curfew still remains a significant hardship.
Forcing businesses to close early has pushed the city into a general state of recession and increased robbery and thuggery, area residents say.
Instead of keeping crime down, residents say the checkpoints that implement the curfew “only protect themselves,” in addition to increasing the numbers of random arrests.
Crimes against property are not the biggest problem, says Arish resident Abu Abdallah al-Tarabeen. “We can handle all of this if it is for the general wellbeing, but what we cannot stand are the large numbers of dead bodies, reaching around 50 bodies, left out for over two years in the isolated northern areas in Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed,” he said, referring to a mass grave site in Arish.
A report released Saturday by the Ambulance Authority said that eleven bodies were buried around the grave site Tarabeen refers to, making it difficult for the authorities to process remains for burial or autopsies. According to Tarabeen, the 50 bodies were all killed by live ammunition in previous clashes.
Further inflaming tensions, on January 22 a family was shot minutes after the curfew was imposed at 7 pm.
Over the past months, soldiers have generally allowed a 30-minute grace period for employees, children and families to make their way home from the local market, but on that day, soldiers manning the checkpoint declared the grace period was no longer in effect and opened fire on civilians in the street.
One man was reportedly shot at while on the way home from buying wedding dresses for his three daughters. His wife and other relatives were also hit, and had to be transferred to intensive care.
The military has also evacuated and demolished homes in Rafah as part of a planned buffer zone along Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip.
Despite clear rumblings of disapproval from residents, Qawish said that people in North Sinai have been cooperative with the curfew due to a strong national spirit.
He added that there would be a heavy security presence in North Sinai on Sunday to make sure that people celebrate the anniversary of the January 25 revolution peacefully.