CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help prevent deadly violence. It keeps decision-makers up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises every month, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. In addition, CrisisWatch monitors over 50 situations (“standby monitoring”) to offer timely information if developments indicate a drift toward violence or instability. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.

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January 2024

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Amid Gaza war, tensions between Egypt and Israel continued to rise; IMF held talks with Cairo to expand $3bn loan and potentially soften reform program. 

War in Gaza continued to strain Egypt-Israel relations. Israel’s request to occupy fourteen-kilometre-long buffer zone on Egypt’s border with Gaza, known as Philadephi Corridor, with a view to halting weapons smuggling route from Egypt into Gaza, ratcheted up tensions. Cairo, which currently patrols area, 22 Jan issued warning to Israel, saying any move to control Philadelphi Corridor would pose serious threat to bilateral relations. Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) director Ronen Bar 29 Jan met with head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate Abbas Kamel in Cairo to discuss tensions over control of Philadelphi Corridor. Meanwhile, security situation remained precarious along border with Gaza and Israel. Egyptian forces reported preventing drug smuggling attempt 15 Jan on Egyptian-Israeli border near Awja crossing, with six suspected smugglers arrested; Israeli army reported one soldier wounded same day in exchange of fire with armed individuals near Awja. Anonymous military source quoted next day by The New Arab website said they were not smugglers, but pro-Hamas militants attempting to infiltrate Gaza.

IMF showed readiness to expand loan amid economic impact of Gaza war. Insecurity in Red Sea impacted shipping traffic through Suez Canal. Osama Rabie, chairman of Suez Canal Authority, 11 Jan said traffic since 1 Jan had dropped by 40% compared to a year prior, inflicting damage to key source of foreign reserves. Drop in Suez Canal traffic also contributed to further weakening of Egyptian pound on black market. Egyptian media outlet Al Ahram 14 Jan reported exchange rate on black market had shot up to record high level of close to 60 pounds to the dollar. International Monetary Fund (IMF) confirmed readiness to help Cairo. Financial institution 11 Jan said increasing size of IMF loan to Egypt was “critical”, and delegation led by IMF Egypt Mission Chief Vladkova Hollar mid Jan travelled to Cairo to discuss $3bn loan and reform program.

December 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Election authority announced President Sisi’s re-election by landslide in presidential vote; Cairo accelerated talks for new loan with IMF, and put forward three-step plan for ending war in Gaza.

President Sisi secured third consecutive term in power. Following presidential election held 10-12 Dec, National Elections Authority 18 Dec declared Sisi winner with 89.6% of votes, and turnout highest ever at 66.8%; Alongside threats and intimidation deployed by authorities to make sure voters turned out, Gaza war seems to have had mobilisation effect on voters, who have rallied behind Sisi’s public stance against threat of forced displacement of Gazans and narrative that he is able to provide security and stability to country surrounded by crises.

Govt accelerated talks for new loan with International Monetary Fund (IMF). IMF 7 Dec confirmed discussing with Egypt possible increase in loan that Cairo originally secured in 2022. News Agency Bloomberg 20 Dec reported IMF loan would be expanded from $3bn to $6bn; IMF expected to request depreciation of exchange rate as prerequisite to agreement.

Cairo continued to promote ceasefire in Gaza. Egypt maintained mediation efforts amid growing pressure from displaced Gazans crowding Rafah border area. Egyptian security sources 25 Dec said Hamas and allied Islamic Jihad rejected Egyptian proposal that they relinquish power in Gaza Strip in return for permanent ceasefire. Govt 28 Dec confirmed having put forward three-stage proposal to end conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, security forces 16 Dec shot down drone near resort town of Dahab on Red Sea, highlighting security repercussions that Gaza war and Yemen’s Houthi rebels’ attacks on shipping have on Egypt; another “flying object” reportedly shot down 26 Dec off coast of Dahab.

GERD talks ended with failure. Water Resources Ministry 19 Dec said fourth round of direct talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) ended without breakthrough.

November 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Presidential election campaign kicked off, with President Sisi set to win third term in December; Cairo allowed entry of several groups of wounded Palestinians and dual nationals from Gaza Strip.

Sisi bound for re-election having sidelined all serious contenders. Election authority 8 Nov announced final four candidates in 10-12 Dec presidential election, and electoral campaign started 9 Nov. Amid ongoing restrictions on free speech, Sisi’s re-election for third term is virtually guaranteed even as country grapples with record inflation and massive debt. Prominent presidential hopeful Ahmed Tantawi, who in Oct withdrew his presidential bid after failing to gather necessary endorsements to run, 28 Nov faced trial on charges of “circulating election-related papers without official authorisation”.

Some wounded Palestinians and foreign passport holders left Gaza Strip for Egypt. Cairo 1 Nov for first time allowed 76 wounded Palestinians and 335 dual nationals stranded in Gaza Strip to pass through Rafah border crossing. Evacuations in following weeks continued at slow pace amid difficult security situation, and truck carrying fuel 15 Nov crossed from Egypt into Gaza for first time since start of Israel’s war with Hamas. Pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas 24-30 Nov allowed larger amounts of fuel and humanitarian aid to reach Gaza (see Israel/Palestine). Foreign ministry 14 Nov once again rejected Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s suggestion that Palestinians leave Gaza, slamming it as “irresponsible” and violation of international law.

International donors offered fresh support amid new pressures arising from Gaza. With war in Gaza putting new strain on Egypt’s economy, notably threatening tourism industry and natural gas imports, ratings agency Fitch 3 Nov downgraded Egypt’s sovereign rating from B to B-, while country’s main international partners appeared set to offer fresh credit. Cairo 14 Nov reported Qatar was ready to invest $1.5bn in Egypt’s industrial sector in 2024. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen 18 Nov visited Egypt, reportedly discussed possibility of enhanced partnership on migration and economic cooperation with Sisi.

October 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Cairo engaged in mediation efforts to stop escalation of violence in Gaza Strip; President Sisi announced re-election bid.

Authorities took steps to stem fallout from Israel-Hamas war. Egyptian policeman 8 Oct killed two Israeli tourists and their Egyptian guide in Alexandria city one day after Hamas launched attack against Israel (see Israel/Palestine), fuelling fears in Cairo of possible “imitation effect”. As Israel in following days laid siege to Gaza Strip and launched airstrikes on enclave ahead of ground offensive, Sisi engaged in diplomatic efforts to pre-empt potential repercussions of Israel-Hamas war for Egypt, including mass influx of refugees from Gaza into Sinai Peninsula and reactivation of jihadist networks. Cairo 19 Oct announced agreement with Israel for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza Strip through Rafah border crossing, and some aid 21 Oct started flowing. Cairo 21 Oct also hosted peace summit to push for ceasefire, but conference ended without breakthrough.

Presidential hopeful forced to withdraw amid harassment by authorities. Sisi 2 Oct confirmed third term bid. Authorities continued to press ahead with organisation of presidential election in December, making it virtually impossible for opposition candidates to challenge incumbent. Prominent presidential hopeful, Ahmed Tantawi, 13 Oct said he had not reached 25,000 individual endorsements required to stand in election, after authorities deployed series of measures to block his supporters, including intimidation, arrests and hacking of phones. Tantawi’s withdrawal leaves only four candidates in presidential race, including Sisi.

Authorities displayed confidence that they can extract concessions from IMF. After authorities late Sept announced that International Monetary Fund (IMF) had accepted to merge first and second review of Egypt’s economic reform program, Bloomberg 13 Oct reported that Egypt is seeking to boost IMF loan from current $3bn to $5bn. Meanwhile, anti-govt demonstrations 3 Oct broke out in Marsa Matrouh town on Mediterranean coast amid deteriorating socio-economic conditions; police reportedly detained dozens of protesters.

September 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Amid mounting economic hardship, authorities announced bringing presidential election forward to December.

Authorities set presidential vote for December. National Election Authority 25 Sept scheduled presidential election initially expected in 2024 for 10-12 December, with possible runoff to be held on 8-10 Jan 2024; move comes as Cairo faces mounting pressure from International Monetary Fund (IMF) to switch to flexible exchange rate and take other steps which could escalate tensions.

IMF once again delayed disbursement of loan funds. Amid Cairo’s lack of progress in meeting IMF’s terms for $3bn loan, IMF 17 Sept confirmed further postponement of first review of Egypt’s economic reform program and disbursement of second tranche of funds, originally scheduled for March 2023. Meanwhile, statistics agency 10 Sept said annual inflation rate hit new record high of 39.7% in Aug, with food and drinks prices rising by 71.9% over one year.

Repression of opposition continued unabated ahead of presidential election. NGO Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights 26 Sept said security forces in recent weeks arrested around 73 campaign volunteers for opposition presidential candidate Ahmed Tantawi. Court 16 Sept sentenced opposition figure Hisham Kassem to six months in prison for slander, defamation and verbal assault on police officer; his political coalition, Free Current, next day announced boycotting presidential ballot in protest.

In other important developments. Explosion at air defence base in North Sinai 17 Sept killed seven soldiers; cause of blast – whether attack by Islamic State-affiliated militants or technical malfunction – remained unclear. U.S. administration mid-Sept reduced impact of human rights-related conditions on its military assistance to Egypt, withholding $85mn of $320mn conditioned on human rights; Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman 30 Sept threatened to place hold on remaining $235mn.

August 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Govt continued to shy away from fulfilling International Monetary Fund loan conditions, and President Sisi received timid recommendations from national dialogue.

Implementation of IMF reform program remained suspended. Govt continued to prioritise boosting country’s foreign currency liquidity over implementing politically-sensitive structural reforms negotiated with International Monetary Fund. Notably, in effort to boost foreign currency inflow, govt 14 Aug announced measures targeted at Egyptians abroad, including U.S. dollar pension plan and $5,000 fee to avoid military draft. Authorities 18 Aug extended acting Central Bank governor Hassan Abdalla’s term by another year, providing further sign of continuity in current approach.

National dialogue submitted conclusions. National Dialogue Board of Trustees mid-Aug submitted recommendations on number of topics to President Sisi; proposals however fall short of addressing pressing issues including plight of political detainees and exercise of political rights.

Tensions persisted with U.S. over human rights record, stance on Ukraine war. In joint letter, group of U.S. lawmakers 10 Aug urged President Biden’s administration to withhold $300mn conditional to human rights record out of annual $1.3bn in military assistance to Egypt, citing continuous repression of journalists, opposition officials and civil society activists; U.S. administration expected to release decision before 30 Sept. Meanwhile, U.S.-based daily newspaper The Wall Street Journal 11 Aug published article detailing Egypt’s reluctance to meet U.S. request to provide weapons to Ukraine, highlighting Cairo’s still warm relations with Moscow.

In other important developments. BRICS bloc of emerging economies 24 Aug invited Egypt and five other countries to join alliance. Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan 27-28 Aug held direct talks on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) for first time in two years; talks ended without breakthrough (see Nile Waters).

July 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Amid significant economic, social and political challenges, Cairo turned to foreign policy, restoring full diplomatic ties with Türkiye and agreeing to resume talks with Ethiopia on GERD.

Successful privatisation round not enough to quell Gulf and IMF wariness. PM Mustafa Madbouly 11 July announced Egypt had sold assets worth $1.9bn, including $1.65bn in foreign currency; Gulf investors played limited role, signalling continued wariness toward purchasing Egyptian assets. International Monetary Fund (IMF) 13 July welcomed sales as important step consistent with reform program, however reiterated call on Cairo to implement structural reforms to improve long-term economic sustainability.

Repression of critics continued to mar national dialogue initiative. National dialogue coordinator Diaa Rashwan 12 July announced that Board of Trustees would meet same day to finalise proposals before submitting them to President Sisi for approval. Journalist Khaled Dawood and human rights lawyers Ahmed Ragheb and Naged El-Bori, 18 July froze participation to dialogue to protest sentencing of researcher Patrick George Zaki to three years in prison on charges of “disseminating false news”. Board of Trustees same day urged Sisi not to enforce verdict, and Sisi 19 July pardoned Zaki.

Cairo restored full diplomatic relations with Türkyie, resumed talks with Ethiopia. Cairo and Ankara 4 July exchanged ambassadors for first time since 2013, with Cairo appointing Amr el-Hamamy as ambassador to Türkiye, and Salih Mutlu Sen becoming Türkiye’s ambassador to Egypt. Outstanding issues, such as stance on Libya and fate of Muslim Brotherhood leaders living in Türkiye, remained unresolved. Sisi and Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed 13 July met for first time since 2019, agreed to resume negotiations on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) with aim of reaching final deal on filling and operation of dam within four months (see Nile Waters). Egypt 13 July hosted leaders from Sudan’s neighbouring countries, announced initiative to end conflict (see Sudan).

In other important developments. In North Sinai, group of detainees 30 July reportedly seized weapons inside police facility in el-Arish city and killed four security forces, while wounding several others.

June 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

IMF continued to pressure Cairo to privatise state assets and allow flexibility in its currency; govt stiffened entry requirements for Sudanese refugees.

Divergence persisted between Egypt and IMF on economic reform program. International Monetary Fund (IMF) 11 June confirmed that review of Egypt’s economic reform program did not take place in March as initially planned due to slow pace of reforms and, as a result, second tranche of $3bn loan package was not disbursed. Central Bank of Egypt same day said annual inflation rate in May rose to 32.7%, from 30.6% in April, highlighting that prices have not yet declined since January devaluation. President Sisi 14 June signalled refusal to let Egyptian pound float and allow for further devaluation, citing impact on livelihoods. National dialogue proceeded with meetings three days a week.

Egyptian border guard shot three Israeli soldiers dead. Egyptian border guard 3 June entered Israel through Nitzana border crossing and fatally attacked three Israeli soldiers; assailant’s family denied allegations of religious radicalisation, but acknowledged his resentment toward Israel after Israeli forces reportedly killed one of his colleagues. Israel subsequently gave its soldiers authorisation to shoot at any suspicious Egyptian soldier; incident unlikely to undermine bilateral security cooperation, however.

Egypt, Türkiye moved forward with normalisation of relations. FM Sameh Shoukry 3 June travelled to Türkiye to attend Turkish President Erdoğan’s inauguration ceremony, days after Egyptian presidency announced that Sisi and Erdoğan had agreed to immediately exchange ambassadors as part of diplomatic relations upgrade.

Cairo stiffened entry requirements for Sudanese. As thousands of people fleeing fighting in Sudan remained stranded at Sudan-Egypt border with no valid travel documents, Cairo 10 June required all Sudanese to obtain electronic visas to enter Egypt, reversing longstanding visa exemption for women, children and elderly men.

May 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Scepticism persisted about Cairo’s ability to make economic reforms and avoid default, while national dialogue kicked off amid harassment of regime critics.

Cairo made limited progress on asset sales. After long stalemate, govt from late April made limited progress in selling state-owned assets, key step in securing foreign revenues and meeting external debt liabilities. Notably, finance ministry 14 May announced sale of 9.5% stake of state-owned Telecom Egypt, which raised around $120mn; how much went to foreign investors remained unclear. Meanwhile, rating agency Fitch 5 May downgraded Egypt’s long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating from B+ to B. Finance Minister Mohamed Maait 9-10 May addressed parliament on 2023-2024 draft budget, which allocates 56% of total spending to debt servicing and anticipates that new borrowing will represent 49% of total revenues, suggesting that Cairo expects to meet almost all of its current foreign liabilities through borrowing.

National dialogue kicked off amid opposition mistrust. National dialogue between govt and opposition representatives 14 May began after months-long preparations. Some opposition parties, including Socialist Popular Alliance Party, boycotted dialogue, citing authorities’ failure to meet preconditions, particularly release of political prisoners. Meanwhile, crackdown on dissent continued. Notably, prominent critic of President Sisi, Ahmed Tantawi, who fled country in 2022, delayed return planned for 6 May after authorities 5 May detained several of his relatives and supporters on terrorism-related charges; Tantawi 11 May eventually arrived in Egypt after release of two family members, vowed to run for president in 2024.

Conflict in Sudan led to border chaos. Thousands of people fleeing conflict in Sudan in May reportedly remained stranded for days at Sudan-Egypt border. Sisi 27 May said Egypt has received 150,000 Sudanese citizens since 15 April.

April 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Economic crisis remained major threat to country’s stability; conflict in neighbouring Sudan fuelled fears of regional destabilisation.

Doubts persisted about Cairo’s commitment to reform programme. Ahead of first review of country’s $3bn rescue package, International Monetary Fund in April continued to pressure Cairo to privatise certain state assets and allow flexibility in Egyptian pound to help absorb external shocks and rebuild foreign currency reserves. Authorities in April did not announce any new sales of govt-owned assets to Gulf investors that could ease foreign currency and funding crisis. Amid rampant inflation, foreign investors also complained about central bank’s hesitant monetary policy, calling for steeper interest rate hikes.

Long-awaited national dialogue set to begin in May. Authorities late March-early April said National Dialogue, which was first called by President Sisi in April 2022, will kick off 3 May. Representatives of human rights groups set to participate in dialogue 9 April met with National Dialogue General Coordinator Diaa Rashwan, urged authorities to open civic space; attendees also called for extension of 12 April deadline for NGOs to regularise their status under 2019 NGO law, which govt next day rejected.

Detention of soldiers in Sudan sparked rumours of Cairo’s involvement in conflict. As conflict broke out in neighbouring Sudan (see Sudan), paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) 15 April captured group of Egyptian soldiers in Merowe town, located between capital Khartoum and Egyptian border. Sisi, who has close ties with Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan’s army, 17 April denied any involvement in Sudanese conflict, saying Egyptian soldiers were on Sudanese soil to carry out military drills with their Sudanese counterparts. The Wall Street Journal 19 April however alleged Cairo had sent warplanes and pilots to back Sudanese military. RSF around 20 April allowed Egyptian soldiers to return home. Govt 27 April said 16,000 people had crossed into Egypt since fighting broke out; thousands more people reportedly stranded late April at Sudan-Egypt border with little humanitarian assistance.

March 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Economic tensions built up again, security outlook in Sinai Peninsula continued to improve, and govt took new steps toward reconciliation with Türkiye.

Inflation climbed to record highs and pressure on exchange rate increased. President Sisi 2 March announced package of measures, including state wage and pension raises to help alleviate economic pressures, which could spark tensions especially as Muslim holy month of Ramadan started 23 March. Central Bank 30 March raised key interest rates by 2% in attempt to curb rocketing inflation, as annual inflation rose to 31.9% in Feb, highest in five years, with food prices rising most steeply. Value of Egyptian pound relative to U.S. dollar in March continued to decline on black market while official exchange rate remained stable at EGP30 to $1, possibly indicating that Central Bank has gone back to managing value of pound despite International Monetary Fund’s request that it switch to flexible exchange rate.

Human rights situation remained dire, lull in violence continued in Sinai Peninsula. Special Court (Emergency State Security Court) 5 March sentenced 31 members of NGO Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms to lengthy prison terms on terrorism-related charges. UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk 7 March expressed “fair trial concerns”. NGO Human Rights Watch 13 March said crackdown on opposition extends beyond Egypt’s borders, alleging authorities systematically refuse to provide or renew identity documents to dissidents, journalists and activists abroad. Amid few incidents in Sinai Peninsula, army unit and Islamic State-affiliated Sinai Province militants 7 March exchanged fire near al-Tur town, South Sinai, wounding one soldier.

Progress continued toward reconciliation with Türkiye. FM Sameh Shoukry 18 March met with Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in capital Cairo, marking new phase in gradual reconciliation between Egypt and Türkiye; Shoukry and Çavuşoğlu said relations would be normalised “at the appropriate time”, and announced President Sisi and Turkish President Erdoğan would meet after Turkish elections in May.

February 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Economic situation remained fragile, security continued to improve in Sinai Peninsula, and tensions emerged between Cairo and Riyadh.

Economy stabilised temporarily, but vulnerabilities persisted. After exchange rate devaluation last month, overall economic situation in Feb stabilised with foreign investors resuming purchase of govt treasury bills, and exchange rate remaining steady at around 30 Egyptian pounds to $1. Country remained vulnerable to shocks, however. Central Bank 2 Feb kept interest rate unchanged at 16.75%, surprising most economists and drawing criticism from foreign investors. Ratings agency Moody’s 7 Feb downgraded Egypt’s credit score from B2 to B3, pushing bonds further into junk status, expressed concern about social and political impact of adjustment.

Jihadist activity reached new low in Sinai Peninsula. Tribal sources in Sinai 9 Feb reportedly informed military that locals have noticed movements of Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated Sinai Province operatives in mountainous areas of central Sinai Peninsula. Army in following days began searching for ISIS elements. Improvised explosive device around 14 Feb wounded 12-year-old girl on outskirts of Sheikh Zuweid town in North Sinai.

Relations with Saudi Arabia deteriorated, top diplomat travelled to Türkiye. Amid tensions over delayed handover of Egypt’s Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, several Saudi Arabian commentators and journalists late Jan-early Feb criticised Egypt’s profligate fiscal practices and inefficient economy marked by army interference with business (see Saudi Arabia). Comments came after Saudi Finance Minister Mohamed al-Jadaan in Jan announced Riyadh would change financial aid policy and require reforms in exchange for money, in likely reference to Egypt. In response, Egyptian journalist Abdel Razek Tawfiq 1 Feb lashed out at Riyadh’s perceived arrogance on Cairo24 and al-Gomhuria websites. President Sisi 9 Feb however attempted to mend ties with Riyadh, calling on Egyptians to remember support received from their “brothers”. In following days, Cairo24 and al-Gomhuria websites removed Tawfiq’s article. In first visits by top Egyptian diplomat in a decade, FM Sameh Shoukry 27 Feb travelled to Türkiye and Syria to show solidarity after devastating earthquake.

January 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

President Sisi continued to push for national dialogue and praised security gains in North Sinai in apparent bid to deflect pressure as economic crisis deepened.

Economy entered unchartered territory as Egyptian pound hit record lows. After govt committed to moving toward flexible exchange rate to secure $3bn loan from International Monetary Fund in Dec, exchange rate from 4 Jan began nosediving from its previous level of EGP24 to $1, temporarily hitting EGP32 to $1 on 11 Jan and subsequently stabilising around EGP30 to $1. Central Bank 16 Jan said adjustment had succeeded in restoring trust, with foreign investors transferring nearly $1bn into Egypt’s foreign exchange market following devaluation. Fitch Ratings agency 18 Jan said move “should have a positive influence” on Egypt’s credit profile but warned that “large external financing needs and related policy adjustments still represent important risks”. Govt in Jan also ordered ministries to cut spending for next six months, though health, interior, foreign affairs and defence ministries were exempted.

President Sisi-sponsored national dialogue initiative remained stalled. National dialogue Sec Gen Mahmoud Fawzi 16 Jan said official start of dialogue would be announced shortly. Opposition Civil Democratic Movement 20 Jan again urged authorities to release more political prisoners, allow political parties to operate freely, and lift restrictions on media to prepare “suitable climate” for national dialogue. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 30 Jan met with Sisi in capital Cairo, discussed human rights situation among other topics.

High-level officials highlight security gains in Sinai Peninsula. PM Mustafa Madbouly and Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Osama Askar 14-15 Jan made rare visits to North Sinai, said security situation is stable and state institutions fully functional, and paid tribute to soldiers’ efforts against Islamic State-affiliated Sinai Province. Sisi 23 Jan said Egypt “succeeded to a great extent to eliminate terrorism in Sinai”.

December 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Preparations for national dialogue among country’s political forces dragged on, jihadists launched rare attack west of Suez Canal in mainland Egypt, and govt secured IMF rescue package.

President Sisi-sponsored national dialogue initiative remained stalled. No date in sight for official launch of national dialogue among political forces more than eight months after Sisi announced initiative in April. Opposition Civil Democratic Movement 3 Dec conditioned participation in dialogue to release of 1,074 political prisoners.

Police suffered rare Sinai Province attack in mainland Egypt. Security forces early Dec reinforced checkpoints along Suez Canal, conducting night patrols and reconnaissance flights in area to prevent attacks by Islamic State-affiliated Sinai Province (SP). SP militants 30 Dec however attacked police checkpoint in Ismailia city, located on west bank of Suez Canal in mainland Egypt, killing at least three police officers.

Cairo secured external support amid financial crisis. International Monetary Fund 16 Dec approved 46-month $3bn bailout package, while govt 23 Dec announced World Bank approved $500mn support for social protection programs. Meanwhile, Cairo continued to diversify partnerships. Sisi 8 Dec attended China-Arab summit in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Reports in following days emerged of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund eyeing $600mn purchase of Egypt’s state-owned United Bank and of China preparing $500mn in financing for Egypt. Sisi 13 Dec attended U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in U.S. capital, Washington DC, met with U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken.

November 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Widespread repression came under scrutiny during Egypt-hosted UN climate change conference (COP27); Islamist militants in Sinai Peninsula demonstrated resilience.

Security forces arrested scores ahead of planned protests during COP27. Authorities early Nov resorted to mass arrests and security forces deployment amid online calls to organise anti-govt protests on 11 Nov – to coincide with COP27 held 6-18 Nov in Sharm el-Sheikh city. Notably, NGO Human Rights Watch 16 Nov recorded 700 people detained 1 Oct-14 Nov across 18 governorates, denounced “nationwide crackdown”. As COP27 kicked off, imprisoned blogger and activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah 6 Nov stopped drinking water for about ten days in addition to his six-month-long hunger strike, drawing international attention to his plight; at least three other political detainees died in Egyptian prisons during COP27. European Parliament 23 Nov passed resolution calling for thorough review of European Union’s relations with Egypt in light of poor human rights record.

Media report alleged cracks in security apparatus. Paris-based media outlet Africa Intelligence early Nov reported that six intelligence officers 23 Oct resigned after failing to convince intelligence chief Abbas Kamel to address widespread popular frustration over economic hardship; incident, if confirmed, would highlight existence of major disagreements within security establishment.

Islamist militants proved resilient in Sinai Peninsula. Amid ongoing counter-insurgency operations by govt forces and allied tribal militiamen, Islamic State-affiliated Sinai Province (SP) militants 18-19 Nov exchanged fire with govt forces and took over several govt buildings in Al-Qantara city near Suez Canal; air force fighter jets fired missiles at school where militants had barricaded themselves, reportedly killing them; at least one army officer and five soldiers also killed.

In other important developments. On sidelines of football World Cup opening ceremony in Qatar, President al-Sisi 20 Nov for first time shook hands with Turkish President Erdoğan, who few days later reaffirmed intent to pursue full normalisation of diplomatic relations with Cairo.

October 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Authorities faced increasing domestic and international pressure to improve human rights record as country hosts UN climate conference; jihadist activity persisted in Sinai Peninsula.

Pressure built up on govt to improve human rights record. Ahead of annual UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) to take place in Sharm el-Sheikh city 6-18 Nov, UN experts 7 Oct said govt is creating “climate of fear” to dissuade civil society organisations to engage visibly at COP27. Local civil society coalition COP Civic Space 19 Oct said thousands still detained without legal basis, and NGO Amnesty International next day denounced “cruel and inhuman conditions” for opponents and civil society activists still in jail. As preparations for Sisi-sponsored national dialogue dragged on, authorities 11 Oct announced imminent liberation of 70 detainees held in pretrial detention for political issues; 16 Oct announced release of another 25 detainees.

Economic problems fed into political discontent. Amid economic crisis, govt 1 Oct increased cost of eight subsidised staple goods, including cheese, cooking oil and lentils. International Monetary Fund and govt late Oct reached preliminary agreement for $3bn loan conditioned on series of economic reforms. Calls for anti-govt protests to be held 11 Nov – to coincide with COP27 – mid-Oct started circulating online. In response, authorities in following days increased patrolling and erected checkpoints in capital Cairo and other cities, reportedly searching mobile phones for anti-govt content.

Govt forces and allies continued to combat jihadists in Sinai Peninsula. Parliament around 3 Oct extended state of emergency in North Sinai by another six months. Sinai Tribal Union and govt forces 3-5 Oct reportedly killed 11 Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated Sinai Province (SP) militants in Jilbana area, about 20km east of Suez Canal. Exchanges of fire between SP elements on one hand and army and tribal fighters on the other reported 5, 14,16 Oct in Rafah area, with fatalities on both sides. Suspected SP militants 20 Oct killed two tribal fighters south of Bir al-Abd town and in Jilbana area.

September 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

National dialogue set to begin in Oct as govt faced sustained pressure to free political detainees; military and tribal militias continued to confront jihadists in Sinai Peninsula.

Poor human rights record cast shadow on upcoming national dialogue. President Sisi-sponsored dialogue set to start in early Oct after board of trustees 11 Sept announced selection of rapporteurs for dialogue’s three main tracks. Status of political detainees remained sore point. Coalition of opposition parties participating in dialogue Civil Democratic Movement, 7 Sept urged govt to speed up release of prisoners of conscience. Public prosecutor 14 Sept released 46 prisoners, including political activist Haitham Mohamedin and Al Jazeera journalist Ahmed al-Najdi; authorities 17 Sept rearrested civil society activist Sherif el-Ruby, less than two weeks after his release from prison. Meanwhile, group of MPs and other members of ruling party 1 Sept filed lawsuits against independent media outlet Mada Masr journalists after they published article alleging financial violations within party. U.S. 14 Sept announced withholding $130mn – of $300mn conditioned on human rights benchmarks – in military aid to Egypt for second year in a row.

Islamic State (ISIS) affiliate suffered severe blow in North Sinai. Armed forces and Sinai Tribal Union combatants 3 Sept killed at least ten ISIS-affiliated Sinai province (SP) operatives and detained four others in counter-insurgency operations in Jilbana area (north-western Sinai) east of Suez Canal. SP suffered one of most severe blows in recent years when army and tribal fighters 11 Sept killed SP commander Ahmad Suleiman Odeh, alias Al-Shayeb, and his deputy Yunis Salim Salem al-Qaram, alias Abu Osama, at unspecified location in North Sinai. Suspected SP operatives 19 Sept killed prominent Sinai Tribal Union commander, Hamid al-Wat, at or near his home in North Sinai.

Sisi sought external support amid economic crisis. Sisi 13-14 Sept made first visit to Qatar since bilateral relations resumed in 2021; Sisi and Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, signed agreements to boost cooperation. Move appears to be part of Egypt’s efforts to find new investments and foreign support to secure International Monetary Fund loan.

August 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Amid growing economic hardship, President Sisi reshuffled cabinet and Central Bank governor resigned; govt forces engaged in days-long clashes with Islamic State-affiliated militants near Suez Canal in Sinai Peninsula. Govt 11 Aug approved plan to ration electricity in order to save more natural gas for export amid severe shortage of foreign currency. Sisi 13 Aug replaced 13 ministers, including tourism portfolio, citing need to improve his administration’s performance, and Central Bank Governor Tarek Amer 17 Aug resigned. Issue of political prisoners continued to impede preparations for Sisi-sponsored national dialogue. National dialogue board of trustee member, Amr Hashem Rabie, 3 Aug called for more prisoner releases to “create an atmosphere of trust between the regime and activists”; another board member, Negad El Borai, 10 Aug presented Dialogue Coordinator Diaa Rashwan with letter from 19 rights defenders warning that dialogue cannot succeed unless authorities first commit to upholding human rights. In response, Rashwan 12 Aug reiterated that over 700 prisoners have been released or given presidential pardon since Sisi called for national dialogue in April. Amid continued violence in North and Central Sinai, Islamic State-affiliated Sinai Province (SP) moved toward Suez Canal. Govt forces and Sinai Tribal Union fighters on one hand, and SP operatives on the other, 11 Aug exchanged fire around Jilbana village (North Sinai), about 20km east of Suez Canal. In following days, clashes reportedly reached as close as 5km from canal and left several dead, with army forces blocking Al-Arish-Al-Qantara highway, while SP operatives planted mines around Jilbana to hinder govt forces’ advance. Situation in area unclear in late Aug. Meanwhile, NGO Human Rights Watch 30 Aug urged authorities to investigate videos circulating on social media platforms since July and apparently showing military and pro-govt militias committing extrajudicial executions of suspected SP militants in North Sinai.

July 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Govt-sponsored national dialogue kicked off amid ongoing crackdown on dissent, and security situation remained precarious in Sinai Peninsula. During first meeting of general secretariat for national dialogue, participants 5 July agreed to open dialogue to all political and social forces, except for individuals linked to outlawed Muslim Brotherhood who have committed violent crimes, and to exclude possible constitutional amendments from discussions. Largest opposition coalition Civil Democratic Movement reportedly divided over participation in national dialogue, with one wing calling for boycott until authorities respond to some key demands, notably release of political prisoners. Civil Society continued to doubt commitment to reform, with Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies 19 July saying national dialogue “neither aims to genuinely start a process of reform nor address the human rights crisis”. In Sinai Peninsula, military and allied tribal militias continued to engage in firefights with Islamic State (ISIS) militants, who launched several explosive attacks. Army supported by tribal fighters 1 and 27 July detained two ISIS-affiliated Sinai Province (SP) local commanders in Bir al-Abd region; 6, 13 and 18 July killed at least nine SP operatives in Maghara and Rafah regions. Explosive device attacks around 2-4 July killed three tribal fighters west of Rafah town and seven soldiers in Maghara region. SP overnight 22-23 July reportedly launched ambush involving suicide attack on police convoy in Al-Masa’id region, north of Al-Arish town; several policemen reportedly wounded. Exchange of fire south of Bir al-Abd town late July made casualties on both sides. Meanwhile, U.S. President Biden 16 July visited Egypt for first meeting with President Sisi; final communique only briefly mentioned human rights. Arabic media outlets mid-July reported that Ethiopia had started third filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which could reignite tensions with Cairo and Sudan.

June 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Preparations for national dialogue moved forward, and fighting between security forces and Islamic State militants continued in Sinai Peninsula. Authorities 8 June appointed journalist and head of State Information Service Diaa Rashwan as general coordinator of President Sisi-sponsored national dialogue. Move sparked controversy among opposition forces, with coalition of seven political parties Civil Democratic Movement 10 June denouncing “unilateral” appointment, saying it does not augur well for fair and effective dialogue process. Rashwan later in month held consultations with political, economic and social actors with a view to launching formal dialogue in July. As part of appeasement efforts ahead of dialogue, authorities 13 June released group of 15 political prisoners, adding to 59 political detainees set free since late April. Imprisonment of opponents however continued: courts 5 June sentenced 17 people to jail, including some to life imprisonment for allegedly belonging to outlawed organisation Muslim Brotherhood (MB); 28 June sentenced ten people to death and over 50 others to life imprisonment for supporting or carrying out MB-led attacks against security forces between 2013 and 2015; NGO Amnesty International same day decried “grossly unfair mass trial” and urged authorities to quash death sentences. In response to recent spike in jihadist attacks in Sinai Peninsula, security forces 5 June launched operation against Islamic State-affiliated Sinai Province (SP) west of Rafah town and in Sheikh Zuweid region. Encounters between militants and security forces in Rafah area reportedly killed large number of SP operatives 9-10 June; three soldiers 13 June; one army colonel and two tribal militia fighters around 18 June; and seven SP operatives 19-20 June. Airstrikes in same area 12 June killed six SP operatives. Russian trade minister 16 June announced Moscow and Cairo agreed to switch to local currencies for future business transactions, thus bypassing obstacles created by recent sanctions on Russia.

May 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Jihadist activity peaked in Sinai Peninsula as Islamic State-affiliated militants launched deadliest attack on military since 2020; economic situation remained dire. Jihadist attacks took high toll on security forces in North Sinai. Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated Sinai Province (SP) 7 May killed between 11 and 17 soldiers in complex attack on army post in Qantara town, west of Bir al-Abd town, marking army’s heaviest loss in single assault in two years; ISIS next day claimed responsibility. SP operatives 11 May attacked army checkpoint at entrance to Rafah town; military said seven assailants and five soldiers killed, including one officer, while SP claimed 12 soldiers dead. SP throughout month also targeted tribal militiamen affiliated with military: six Sinai Tribal Union fighters killed or wounded 1 May in ambush south of Rafah; one tribal fighter killed and several wounded 9 May in IED attack near Rafah; several killed or wounded 13 May as IEDs destroyed two militia vehicles east of Balaa village in Rafah area. Govt forces and tribal militiamen around 25 May reportedly killed several SP militants and arrested others south of Sheikh Zuweid town. Meanwhile, emergency court 29 May sentenced 2012 presidential candidate, Abdel Moneim Aboul Foutouh, to 15 years in prison for “spreading false information” and “undermining state security”; also sentenced over 20 other Islamist opponents to prison. NGO Amnesty International same day denounced “grossly unfair and politically-motivated trial”, said defendants subjected to “torture and ill-treatment” in detention. After state statistics agency 10 May announced annual urban inflation jumped to 13.1% in April, Central Bank 19 May raised interest rates citing quickest soaring of prices in three years. As part of U.S. efforts to regain centrality in Egypt’s foreign policy, particularly in context of Russia’s war in Ukraine, head of U.S. Central Command, Gen Michael “Erik” Kurilla, and U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan 9 and 11 May, respectively, met with President Sisi in capital Cairo.

April 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Fighting intensified in Sinai Peninsula, and repression of opposition activists showed no sign of abating. High levels of violence reported in Sinai since late March between Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated Sinai Province (SP) militants on one hand, and govt forces and allied tribal militias on the other; SP also continued to abduct civilians. Sniper fire 1 April killed one soldier in Al-Buhaira area near Bir al-Abd town. SP operatives 2-3 April killed at least two people suspected of collaborating with army in Bir al-Abd area; 8 April abducted two agricultural workers from field in Jalbana area, west of al-Arish town, and three residents of Malsaq town, Bir al-Abd region. Army and allied tribal forces 4 April killed one suspected SP militant and arrested another south of Sheikh Zuweid town; tribal militia 11 April claimed militiamen in cooperation with army had in recent days cleared certain areas around Rafah city and Sheikh Zuweid town of SP militants, killing five SP operatives in Rafah area. Five ISIS operatives reportedly killed 24 April south of Rafah in counter-terrorism operations. Exchanges of fire between suspected militants and Sinai Tribal Union fighters in Al-Muqata’a area near Sheikh Zuweid 22-25 April left at least seven killed. Gunfire 25 April targeted army patrol in same area, killing two soldiers. Meanwhile, after authorities 9 April announced death of economist and opposition party official Ayman Hadhoud, who disappeared in Feb, NGO Egyptian Organization for Human Rights 11 April called for investigation into his death. Italian court same day suspended trial of four Egyptian security officers accused of detaining and killing Italian researcher Giulio Regeni in 2016, citing Cairo’s refusal to cooperate and locate officers. In apparent reaffirmation of Turkey’s commitment to normalising relations with Egypt, senior Turkish official early April reportedly said Ankara would soon appoint ambassador to Egypt for first time in nine years.

March 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Authorities took steps to mitigate impact of soaring wheat price; uptick in jihadist violence recorded in Sinai Peninsula. Amid disruption of wheat imports due to Russian invasion of Ukraine, govt from 11 March banned exports of key staple items for three months, 21 March imposed price cap on unsubsidised bread and throughout month announced new incentives for domestic wheat producers to increase supply. Authorities 21 March devalued currency by around 15%. International Monetary Fund 23 March said Cairo had asked for support to help weather impact of war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, G7 ambassadors to Cairo 1 March jointly called on President Sisi to vote in favour of UN resolution condemning Russian invasion; authorities 2 March complied with request. In signal that Cairo is not ready to cut ties with Moscow, Sisi and Russian President Putin 9 March held phone call to discuss bilateral cooperation. In Sinai Peninsula, Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated Sinai Province (SP) stepped up attacks on military and pro-govt tribal militiamen. SP militants 7 March allegedly attacked army base in Al-Arish area, killing unspecified number of soldiers. SP 10 March pledged allegiance to new ISIS leader Abu al-Hassan al-Hashemi al-Qurashi. Heavy exchanges of fire reported 11-14 March between soldiers and tribal militia fighters on one hand, and suspected SP militants on the other, in Shibana and al-Barth areas south of Rafah town; up to 14 soldiers and several militiamen reportedly killed. Alleged SP militants 21 March attacked and killed four militiamen south of Rafah. SP also launched several explosive device attacks throughout month: four militiamen killed 1 and 21 March in three separate locations, several soldiers killed or wounded 11 March south west of Bir al-Abd town.

February 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Violence persisted in Sinai Peninsula, and country’s human rights record came under international spotlight. In Sinai Peninsula, low-intensity fighting between Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated Sinai Province (SP) and security forces and allied militiamen continued. Pro-govt Sinai Tribal Union (STU) 4 Feb said it had killed ISIS commander in central Sinai, Abu Rawaha al-Ansari; 13 Feb said it had lost eight militiamen in clashes with SP militants in Sinai Peninsula. Explosive devices 6, 9 Feb wounded at least four civilians in Rafah area (North Sinai); 19-20 Feb killed three civilians including one child in Sheikh Zuweid area (North Sinai). Suspected SP militants 9 Feb killed one soldier in same area; 15 Feb abducted two civilians in Al-Gafgafa region (central Sinai). Meanwhile, 175 EU lawmakers 3 Feb called on UN Human Rights Council to establish monitoring and reporting mechanism to bring Egypt’s “devastating” human rights situation under global scrutiny during body’s 49th regular session 28 Feb-1 April. Ahead of 17 Feb AU-EU Summit in Belgian capital Brussels, NGO Human Rights Watch 14 Feb called on Europe not to “roll out the red carpet” for President Sisi in light of “human rights crisis unfolding under his rule”. After Addis Ababa 20 Feb announced it had begun producing electricity from Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, FM Sameh Shoukry same day accused Ethiopia of violating 2015 Declaration of Principles (see Nile Waters).

January 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Repression of rights defenders and political activists continued while violence persisted in North Sinai. Authorities took symbolic measures in apparent bid to appease Western partners but repression continued. Authorities 8 Jan released Coptic human rights activist Ramy Kamel and Egyptian-Palestinian activist Ramy Shaath while forcing latter to abandon his Egyptian nationality; next day released 15 women who had been in pre-trial detention for two years on charges of “spreading false news” and “promoting terrorism”. Meanwhile, security forces 12 Jan arrested opposition activist Hossam Mahmoud Sallam after his Khartoum-Istanbul flight landed at Luxor airport; Istanbul-based NGO We Record next day denounced “kidnapping”. One of last remaining independent rights groups, Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, 10 Jan said it was forced to suspend its operations due to repressive laws. Group of U.S. foreign affairs experts Working Group on Egypt 22 Jan called on U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken to deny $130mn in annual security assistance (withheld from Egypt in Sept 2021) unless Cairo fully meets series of human rights conditions by 30 Jan deadline; U.S. Senator Chris Murphy 28 Jan said U.S. President Biden had decided to reprogram funds, applauded “important message”. Meanwhile, U.S. State Dept 25 Jan announced $2.5bn in arms sale to Egypt. In Sinai Peninsula, army around 9 Jan killed two suspected Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated Sinai Province (SP) militants in Bir al-Abd area. Military governor for North Sinai 15 Jan announced residents of villages south of Sheikh Zuweid town had returned home. Suspected ISIS militants around 19 Jan reportedly killed or wounded 13 soldiers in ambush in Joura area, south of Sheikh Zuweid. Suspected ISIS militants 25 Jan allegedly kidnapped six people in Bir al-Abd town, and explosive device hours later killed up to five soldiers in same area.

December 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Amid repression of critics, rights groups continued to warn about recent series of laws restricting civil liberties; violence remained low in North Sinai. After President Sisi 29 Nov ratified new law giving authorities special powers to curb COVID-19 pandemic, prominent human rights defender Sherif Azer and other civil society activists in following days accused authorities of seeking alternative to state of emergency, which Sisi lifted in Oct, to maintain extraordinary powers. Several prosecutions appeared to be fast-tracked as military courts established under state of emergency continued to oversee previously referred trials. Notably, military court 20 Dec sentenced prominent civil society activist Alaa Abdel Fattah to five years in prison, and human rights lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer and blogger Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim to four years imprisonment, all on charges of “spreading false news”; convictions not subject to appeal before higher court. Low-intensity guerrilla warfare continued in Sinai Peninsula. Notably, mine allegedly planted by Islamic State-affiliated Sinai Province (SP) 4 Dec killed or wounded five soldiers in Maliz area, central Sinai; suspected militants 14 Dec attacked village and killed soldier near Sheikh Zuweid town (North Sinai). Meanwhile, Sinai Tribal Union operating alongside govt forces around 1 Dec reportedly killed two militants engaged in planting dozens of explosive devices in Manjam area (central Sinai); 3 Dec killed another two near Sheikh Zuweid in operation that reportedly thwarted suicide bombing against army and police forces; late Dec launched large-scale offensive against SP in Al-Arjaa area south of Rafah town, killing two militants. Military around 5 Dec reportedly killed senior jihadist leader Mahmoud Akram al-Laham, also known as Abu Duaa, at undisclosed location in Sinai. Meanwhile, FM Sameh Shoukry 12 Dec met with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) representatives in Saudi Arabia to discuss Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam; GCC officials reportedly expressed support for Egypt’s water security concerns though final statement did not mention issue.

November 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Rights groups accused President Sisi of replacing recently lifted state of emergency with new civil rights restrictions. After Sisi late Oct lifted nationwide state of emergency, parliament 31 Oct approved amendments to counter-terrorism law, Penal Code and public infrastructure law, de facto expanding executive and military powers. NGO Human Rights Watch 5 Nov said amendments “incorporated many emergency-law-like provisions in other laws” and demonstrated govt’s “lack of genuine commitment to ending undue restrictions on basic human rights”. Among few security incidents reported in Sinai Peninsula, Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated Sinai Province combatants around 4 Nov killed two soldiers in ambush west of Al-Arish town; 15 Nov reportedly launched rocket attack on army armoured vehicle in southern Sinai, killing two soldiers; also allegedly planted mine, which around 21 Nov killed three members of pro-govt tribal militia south of Rafah town. Egypt and Israel 7 Nov agreed to strengthen Egyptian military presence near Rafah border crossing with Gaza Strip; move amounts to amendment of 1979 peace treaty excluding Egyptian military deployment in that area. U.S. daily newspaper The Wall Street Journal 3 Nov revealed Sudan coup leader Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan held secret meeting with Sisi day before 25 Oct Sudanese coup. U.S. and Egyptian officials 8-9 Nov held strategic dialogue in Washington DC, discussed human rights, water and regional security. French govt 22 Nov called for investigation after investigative website Disclose alleged Egypt misused French intelligence – intended to track jihadist militants – to kill civilians.

October 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Violence continued to decline in North Sinai, and President Sisi lifted years-long nationwide state of emergency. Among few security incidents reported in Sinai, army vehicle 3 Oct detonated explosive device allegedly planted by Islamic State-affiliated Sinai Province militants near Al-Masura checkpoint, south of Rafah town; toll unknown. Sisi 7 Oct reportedly issued decree making entire Sinai Peninsula “military zone”, which enables defence minister to impose series of special measures. Meanwhile, Sisi 25 Oct lifted nation-wide security-related state of emergency, which had granted authorities sweeping powers for over four years, and 27 Oct appointed Lt Gen Osama Askar armed forces chief of staff. Human rights groups cautiously welcomed end of state of emergency, with NGO Human Rights Watch 26 Oct deeming move “insufficient” to address country’s “prolonged human rights crisis”. Sisi 12 Oct took part in Visegrad Group summit in Hungary’s capital, Budapest, said country would not give in to any “orders” from EU on human rights; statement comes after U.S. in Sept withheld small section of annual military aid to Cairo due to human rights concerns. Military court 13 Oct upheld life sentences for 32 people accused of plotting to kill Sisi in 2014. Amid stalled negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (see Nile Waters), Sisi at Cairo Water Week conference 24 Oct called for “balanced and legally binding agreement”. After Turkey’s plans to sell armed drones to Ethiopia disclosed 14 Oct, Egyptian security source reportedly called for freezing of deal, said any such agreement should be discussed between Cairo and Ankara; both countries in recent months have negotiated reestablishing diplomatic ties.

September 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Govt scored major victory against jihadist group amid persistent vio-lence in Sinai, and U.S. decided to withhold part of military aid over human rights concerns. After opponent in exile Mohamed Ali late-Aug urged Egyptians to take to streets against President Sisi on second anniversary of 20 Sept 2019 anti-regime protests, authorities reportedly placed country on high alert; streets 20 Sept remained quiet amid enhanced security presence notably in capital Cairo. In Sinai Peninsula, suspected Islamic State-affiliated Sinai Province (SP) 2-3 Sept abducted eight civilians; army four days later released them. Two IEDs reportedly activated early Sept against army vehicles west of Rafah town and south of Sheikh Zuweid town. In highest-profile defection since insurgency began in 2011, top SP official Mohamed Saad Kamel, also known as Abu Hamza al-Qadi, 10 Sept surrendered to govt-linked tribal union. NGO Human Rights Watch 7 Sept accused security forces of having killed dozens of suspected “terrorists” in extrajudicial executions in recent years, including in North Sinai; called on international partners to halt weapons transfers to Egypt and to impose sanctions against security agencies and officials responsible for abuses. In unprecedented step, U.S. State Dept 14 Sept said U.S. administration will withhold $130mn out of its annual $300mn in conditioned military aid to Egypt until Cairo takes specific steps to improve human rights record; group of 19 human rights groups, which had called on U.S. to block entire $300mn, same day decried decision as “terrible blow” to Washington’s commitment to “human rights first” foreign policy. Delegations of Egyptian and Turkish diplomats 7-8 Sept held second round of discussions in Turkey’s capital Ankara with view to normalising relations; both sides pledged further talks to address divergences.

August 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Amid ongoing violence in Sinai Peninsula, security forces faced accusations of extrajudicial killings. In Sinai Peninsula, army vehicle 9 Aug struck explosive device south of Rafah town, leaving one army colonel killed and several soldiers wounded. Roadside bomb 12 Aug killed seven soldiers including officer and wounded six others near New Rafah town; Islamic State (ISIS) later claimed responsibility. Sniper fire targeted security forces throughout month in New Rafah area, leaving one soldier dead 20 Aug. Armed forces 1 Aug said they had killed 89 suspected ISIS militants in recent operation, and published video showing killings of two unarmed people; NGO Amnesty International 5 Aug called on public prosecution to investigate newly released video which apparently showed security forces engaging in extrajudicial killings in North Sinai. President Sisi 18 Aug signed into law bill granting Supreme Constitutional Court power to decide whether international agreements and court decisions are applicable in Egypt, potentially providing means for authorities to avoid enforcing country’s human rights commitments. Meanwhile, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken throughout month faced pressure from range of parties, including Democratic caucus at House of Representatives and NGO Amnesty International, not to use national security waiver to release $300mn in military aid for Egypt conditioned on human rights record. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns 15 Aug met with President Sisi and General Intelligence Service Director Abbas Kamel in capital Cairo, discussed ways to “enhance security and intelligence cooperation” on various issues including Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Libya, Afghanistan and Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

July 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Authorities continued clampdown on outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, and jihadist violence persisted in Sinai Peninsula. Court of Cassation 11 July upheld life sentences of ten Muslim Brotherhood (MB) top officials, including former leader Mohamed Badie, on accusations of killing policemen and organising mass jailbreaks during 2011 uprising. Parliament’s lower house next day approved legal amendment that enables govt to dismiss public sector employees suspected of being affiliated with MB. Court of Cassation 14 July rejected appeal by group of 13 people, including two prominent civil society activists, against their placement on Egypt’s terrorism list in April 2020; all 13 have been detained since 2019 on accusations of having received funds from MB to incite revolution and commit violence. Jihadist attacks persisted in Sinai Peninsula. Notably, Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated Sinai Province (SP) militants’ gunfire 2 July wounded soldier south of Rafah town and 12 July targeted pro-govt militia south of Sheikh Zuweid town. IEDs likely planted by SP militants 11, 13 and 17 July blew up army tanks south of Sheikh Zuweid, killing or wounding soldiers on board. Suspected SP militants 31 July killed at least five troops in attack on checkpoint in Sheikh Zuweid town: three militants also killed in exchange of fire. NGO Human Rights First 15 July said ISIS recruitment was ongoing in Egyptian prisons and fuelled in large part by torture and other abuse of inmates. Meanwhile, Qatar 29 July named ambassador to Egypt after Cairo and Doha signed reconciliation agreement in Jan; Egypt had appointed ambassador to Doha in late June. Tensions with Ethiopia ran high as Addis Ababa completed second filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (see Nile Waters).

June 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt

Nile waters crisis with Ethiopia started to shake up domestic politics, and jihadist attacks regained intensity in Sinai Peninsula. Various opposition figures tried to use diplomatic impasse over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD, see also Nile Waters) to challenge President Sisi’s rule. Left-wing and Nasserist opposition groups, along with public personalities 1 June launched new coalition with view to “defending Egypt’s water rights”, notably calling for binding agreement with Ethiopia. Spain-based businessman Mohamed Ali 9 June – whose online videos accusing Sisi of corruption triggered wave of anti-govt protests in 2019 – called on Egyptians to take to the streets 10 July and carry out “Nile Revolution”. In response to rising pressure, authorities continued to clamp down on dissent. Family of former Egyptian Ambassador Yahia Najm, who has criticised govt’s handling of GERD crisis, 6 June said authorities arrested Najm late May. In Sinai Peninsula, jihadists stepped up attacks against army and civilians. Islamic State-affiliated Sinai Province (SP) 3 June infiltrated army camp south of Sheikh Zuweid town, wounding at least four soldiers, and next day ambushed army patrol in same area, reportedly killing or wounding four. IEDs 4 June killed or wounded passengers of pro-army militia vehicle south of Rafah town, and killed intelligence officer in Northern Sinai. Suspected SP combatants 8 June kidnapped five civilians near Bir al-Abd town. IEDs 15-17 June reportedly targeted army convoy and bulldozers in Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid areas; death toll unknown. Meanwhile, army 14 June killed senior SP official Abdullah Bariq al-Awassi south of Rafah