Teen wounded as Beduin clash with Egyptian guards

Scores of armed villagers on Sinai border demonstrate against alleged government mistreatment and neglect of community.

Beduins Egypt 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Beduins Egypt 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Beduin protesters in the Sinai desert exchanged fire with Egyptian border guards on Friday, seriously wounding a 13-year-old demonstrator when an anti-government protest spiraled out of control, witnesses and security officials said. Scores of armed Beduins from el-Madfouna village on the Egypt-Israel border were demonstrating against what they describe as government mistreatment and neglect of their community when they said border police opened fire on them, shooting a teenage boy in the head. The teenager was in critical condition, said physician Mohammed Lutfi of the local Sinai Hospital. The bullet had gone through the boy's head, entering from above the right ear, the doctor said. A security official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press, confirmed that one Beduin had been wounded in an exchange of fire with the border police. "We are trying to take over this part of the borders God willing, just to show them that we are able to make trouble, but what we want now is our demands to be met," said Hamdan el-Rifei, one of the protesters, adding that they didn't originally want a confrontation. The demonstration was the latest in a series of protests by the Beduins living near the Israeli border over alleged government neglect, unwarranted detentions by police and plans to demolish houses along the border. Moussa Armelat, another protester, said that Beduins in Sinai "were sick of marginalization," and complained about the "continuous stalling" by authorities over their demands. The impoverished Beduin of the northern Sinai have been increasingly restive over the years, especially since a series of terrorist attacks against tourists in the coastal resorts in the south resulted in indiscriminate detentions of thousands of their people. In early August, hundreds of Beduins clashed with local police, destroyed a checkpoint and set a police truck on fire in three days of unrest near the Gaza border over perceived government threats to tear down houses near the border. Tensions on the border are also exacerbated by the rampant smuggling into Israel of everything from African refugees seeking employment to weapons and munitions bound for Palestinian militants. On Friday, police arrested a Beduin woman who had almost a half ton of explosives buried under her house in al-Takadom village near the border. The cache included 350 kilograms (770 pounds) of explosives and eight rockets, said a security official, also speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. Police found the explosives a day after they discovered two smuggling tunnels in Rafah, just a few meters from Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip, the official added.