7 civilians killed in Egyptian airstrikes on IS in Libya, witnesses tell Amnesty

Ahram Online , Tuesday 24 Feb 2015

Egypt has denied that any civilians were killed in last week's airstrikes against the Islamist militants in Derna

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa deputy director at Amnesty International (Photo: Youtube)

Human rights group Amnesty International said seven civilians were killed as a result of recent Egyptian airstrikes against Islamic State group targets in Libya's Derna.

The Egyptian airstrikes came as a retaliation against the militant group after it beheaded 20 Egyptian Coptic migrant workers.

In a report released Monday, the London-based organisation published testimonies from Derna residents Amnesty interviewed a day after Egypt denied that airstrikes killed civilians.

According to the residents, most of the Egyptian airstrikes hit military targets, but two missiles landed in the heavily populated residential area of Sheiha al-Gharbiya.

“One missile struck a four-storey house belonging to the al-Kharshoufi family, killing a mother and her three children aged between three and eight, and injuring their father and another child,” interviewees told Amnesty.

The family members were killed by debris from walls of the houses which collapsed as a result of the airstrike, witnesses said.

“A second missile hit a street in between civilian houses, causing three other deaths,” Amnesty said.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa deputy director at Amnesty International, claimed that “Egypt has now joined the ranks of those placing civilians at risk in Libya. The killing of seven civilians, six of them in their own homes, must be investigated, as it appears to have been disproportionate.”

“The Egyptian authorities must publicly disclose detailed information on all airstrikes carried out in Derna on 16 February, including targets, and measures taken to avoid incidental harm to civilians,” said Sahraoui.

In a televised speech on Sunday, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi rejected accusations that the army targeted civilians saying the airstrikes against the IS group were precisely aimed at specific military targets. 

The president added that last summer Egyptian forces halted raid against a large group of militants due to the presence of women and children at the scene, in a possible reference to the army's war against Islamist miltants at home.

Libyan air force chief Saqr Al-Jaroushi had told an Egyptian broadcaster shortly after the Egyptian airstrikes that his country's air force - which coordinated the attacks with Cairo - bombed an anti-aircraft system which was stationed on the roof of a civilian building.

Amnesty also interviewed a relative of Osama Younis Ishtewi,32, a civilian who was reportedly killed during the raid. 

“Osama was a teaching assistant at the High Institute of Comprehensive Trades in Derna … [He] was filming the planes from the rooftop of our house. Suddenly, there was a massive noise. A missile hit the area between our house and that of our neighbours. Osama was killed with shrapnel. When we found the body, we saw that his head was severed. The whole house collapsed.”

Amnesty also said that residents testified that a woman in her twenties, Hanan al-Drisi Faraj, was killed by debris when the ceiling in her apartment collapsed.

Eyewitnesses told Amnesty that 10 houses were destroyed and 30 were damaged with shattered windows, in addition to damage to 20 private cars.

The organisation said it could not confirm the extent of the damage. 

The director of Derna’s hospital told Amnesty that 17 civilians were injured from shrapnel, debris or burns from the explosions.

An eyewitness explained that militants do not bring their dead to the hospital since they bury them immediately.

Short link: