Egypt Accused of Threatening Rights Group That Reported on Construction of Camp in Sinai for Palestinian Refugees

The news of the construction signals that Egypt might be caving to Israeli pressure to allow Palestinian refugees to enter its territory

Egypt has been accused of threatening a human rights group that first reported on the construction of a walled camp for Palestinian refugees in the Sinai Desert on the border with Gaza.

Eighteen civil society groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, said Egyptian officials have been engaged in a smear campaign against the Sinai Foundation for Human Rights (SFHR) and its director, Ahmed Salem.

The SFHR was the first to report on the construction of the walled camp and said it was being built to prepare for an influx of Palestinian refugees as Israel is threatening to invade Rafah, the southern Gaza city that’s on the Egyptian border and is packed with 1.5 million Palestinians.

Egypt has denied the report, but The Wall Street Journal also published a story on the construction and cited unnamed Egyptian officials who said the camp would be able to house 100,000 Palestinians but that Cairo would like to keep the number between 50,000 and 60,000.

According to the civil society groups, since mid-February, Egyptian government officials and pro-government figures “have engaged in an aggressive smear campaign against the Sinai Foundation and Salem on television, in newspapers, and social media.”

The statement also alleges Salem, who is based in the UK, has been threatened that he “would be brought back to Egypt” if he didn’t stop what he was doing and was warned that he was “not far from reach even abroad.”

Salem has said that in order to prevent the news of the construction being made public, the Egyptian military has “increased patrols and checkpoints in the area, stopping residents and construction workers, and looking into the contents of their mobile phones in an attempt to intimidate locals and prevent reporting about the construction work of the fortified zone.”

Israeli government officials have not been shy about their desire to expel Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, and a document prepared by Israel’s Intelligence Ministry that was leaked back in October said the best-case scenario for Israel would be to send all 2.3 million Palestinians living in Gaza into Egypt. So far, Cairo has strongly resisted the plan, but the SFHR report indicates Egypt might cave to Israeli pressure to allow some refugees in if Rafah is invaded.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.