CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Authorities sought to purge state institutions of outlawed Muslim Brotherhood amid steps toward reconciliation with Ankara. Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk 3 May reported parliament was set to discuss draft law aimed at removing civil servants suspected of supporting or sympathising with Islamist organisation Muslim Brotherwood (MB); bill comes after Transport Minister Kamel al-Wazir late April blamed recent spate of deadly train accidents, which prompted calls for his resignation, on “extremists” working in railway sector. Several NGOs, including Democracy for the Arab World Now, in following days criticised bill as “persecution” of MB members. Jihadist violence in Sinai Peninsula persisted at low level; suspected Sinai Province militants 1 May killed three civilians in Al-Arish area. Turkish delegation led by Deputy FM Sedat Önal 5 May visited Cairo to discuss re-establishing diplomatic ties; both sides recorded some progress, but presence of MB members in Turkey and Turkish troops in Libya remained stumbling blocks to full reconciliation; Egyptian delegation expected to visit Turkey in coming weeks. In possible warning to Addis Ababa and preparation for possible escalation of tensions amid reports Ethiopia had started second filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Sudan and Egypt 26-31 May held third joint military exercise since Nov 2020 (see Nile Waters). After violent conflict broke out between Israel and Palestinian armed factions in Gaza Strip, Cairo mid-May sent ambulances to Gaza and opened Rafah crossing to allow passage of humanitarian aid; also played leading role in brokering 20 May ceasefire (see Israel-Palestine).