Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has issued a presidential decree permitting the King of Bahrain, Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, to own two villas located in the South Sinai province of Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt’s state’s official Gazette reported on Monday.
In accordance to the Sinai Development Law No.14/2012, any land on the peninsula can only be owned by Egyptian nationals.
However, a statement released on the State Information Service website claims that Al-Sisi issued a presidential decree approving treating Bahraini King Al Khalifa as an Egyptian citizen in 2016.
“The decree is also applicable to the possession of lands and villas in Naama Bay of Sharm El-Shiekh city for the purpose of residence,” the statement concluded.
The news comes just days after the announcement of a $15 billion project to develop the restive Sinai Peninsula that should be completed by 2022, with a presidential aide describing the scheme as “a project for national security”.
The project includes plans for a comprehensive network of roads, residential and industrial developments, four water desalination plants, hospitals and sewage networks. Funding sources for the initiative remain unclear.
Egypt is reportedly preparing to launch a significant military attack in upcoming days in the area bordering Gaza and Israel, with Egyptian forces amassing near the Rafah crossing.
However, last week, New York based watchdog Human Rights Watch expressed concern over the risk of a looming humanitarian crisis in North Sinai as a result of the Egyptian army’s military operation. Nearly 420,000 residents in four north-eastern cities are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance due to the ongoing battle.
According to the report, security forces have also imposed strict restrictions on the movement of goods and people throughout the governorate.
The report quoted local residents as saying that “the authorities have also banned the sale or use of gasoline for vehicle use in the area and cut telecommunication services for several days at a time. The government has cut water and electricity almost entirely in the most eastern areas of North Sinai, including Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed.
Egypt has been facing a Daesh insurgency in the remote North Sinai region that has killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen in recent years.
Human rights organisations have, however, accused Egypt of using the fight against terror in Sinai as a ruse to cover up the extrajudicial killing of opponents and critics.