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Rafah under fire: Closed roads, a communications blackout and shortages of basic necessities
 
 
The city of Rafah
 

“The city is on the brink of a food and medicine crisis … store shelves are laden with dust instead of food and other basic products. This is in addition to the complete electricity blackout and shortage in cooking gas cylinders, which, when found, are sold at exorbitant prices,” Ibrahim Wagih, a resident of Rafah’s Safa neighborhood, told Mada Masr.

According to Wagih, merchandise is in short supply at the border city’s vegetable markets, and the prices of tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplants have soared, reaching up to LE30 per kilo. Other vegetables cost at least LE10 per kilo.

The living situation is “extremely tragic,” asserted Wagih, adding that access to all basic necessities has been severed since the authorities closed the only road in and out of the city to vehicles, near to the village of Abou Shanar, on August 19, ahead of a security campaign. The roadblock has further restricted resident access to vital goods and services, including medicine and medical supplies.

The shortages are unfolding alongside the ongoing communications blackout currently affecting parts of central Sinai, and North Sinai’s three largest cities: Rafah, Sheikh Zuwayed and Arish.

Abou Mazen, a resident of Tayra village in the Rafah district, told Mada Masr that another large security campaign swept several of Rafah’s villages a few days ago which resulted in the demolition of a number of houses and the bulldozing of agricultural lands.

Residents had seen a number of large armored vehicles and bulldozers accompanying military convoys to western Rafah, according to About Mazen, who added that sporadic explosions were heard in the area, and shells fired by unknown sources fell on deserted areas of the city.

According to a medical source who spoke with Mada Masr on Sunday on condition of anonymity, Rafah’s central hospital received the body of a man who died from shrapnel wounds caused by a shell which fell on his house.

Six other Rafah residents with similar wounds were submitted to the hospital, the medical source said. A woman and her two infant children were injured when a shell fell on their house in the Tayra village in the south of Rafah, and another woman was injured by a shell in the Abou Helw area of the city. A young man and a 10-year-old girl also sustained gunshot wounds in separate incidents in the Atwil al-Amir and Safa neighborhoods.

Many Rafah residents have now made their way to the Safa neighborhood, which Abou Mazen described as the “safest area in the city now.” He added that security forces have closed the road between Tayra and Masoura to vehicles, forcing anyone hoping to travel between villages to do so on foot.

Atef Mohamed, a young man who lives in the Abou Helw area, described the living conditions of some of the families in his area as pitiable, particularly those who had been evicted from Tayra at the start of the August security campaign. He told Mada Masr that some are living in makeshift houses on the outskirts of the area, as the roadblocks have prevented them from leaving Rafah.

Mohamed predicted that the situation will deteriorate further in the coming days, due to the anticipated anti-militant operations following the arrival of a senior security delegation, headed the Interior Minister’s Deputy for Public Security Major General Gamal Abdel Bary, on Monday.

The operations are a response to a September 11 attack on a military convoy on the Arish-Qantara highway, close to Toloul village, for which the Islamic State-affiliate Province of Sinai claimed responsibility. Eighteen police personnel were killed in the incident, and six others injured.

Similarly, a worker at a construction company in central Sinai told Mada Masr, speaking on condition of anonymity, that militants burned equipment belonging to several construction companies last Friday. The source added that the militants threatened to kill workers from the companies involved in constructing a new road, from the Shahid Ahmed Hamdy Tunnel to Taba, if they continue construction in cooperation with the military.

Another source, speaking on condition of anonymity, also informed Mada Masr that a group of militants in four-wheel drives attacked a construction site in Nekhel city, in central Sinai, on Friday. They allegedly set the equipment alight while the workers were on the premises.

Two days later, militants attacked two other sites housing the equipment being used in the construction of roads to the south of Bir al-Abd city. According to the same source they burned construction vehicles, staff quarters and other equipment. The four-wheel drives used to transport workers to off-road locations were also stolen from sites in the Maghara and Gaal areas, south of Bir al-Abd.

Translated by Osman El Sharnoubi

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Mourad Higazy