Al-Ahram newspaper online reports: “The Egyptian State TV announced shortly after 9pm that President Mohamed Morsi has recalled the Egyptian ambassaor to Israel, Atef Mohamed Salem to protest Israeli attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip.”
Posts Tagged ‘Al Ahram’
Amid rumors that Egypt is planning to send home the Israeli ambassador to Cairo, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed Amr issued a statement Wednesday evening, condemning the Israeli air strikes in Gaza and demanding the strikes to end immediately, according to Al Ahram.
This has been the first official Egyptian response to the assassination of Hamas military chief of staff Ahmed al-Jaabari, Amr said the Israeli military escalation in Gaza occurs “at a very critical time in the Middle East.”
The Egyptian FM warned Israel of the negative impact on the stability of the Middle East if the Israeli air strikes do not stop.
The Egyptian army has slowed down its all-out attack on terrorist enclaves in the Sinai, several weeks after its initial, aggressive spurt on August 5, reports Al Ahram, which claims that the terrorist culprits who murdered 15 Egyptian Border Guards remain at large, and seems to insinuate that the lack of progress is rooted in political uncertainty back in Cairo.
Here’s one unexpected aspect of what was touted as a jihad against the murderers: the Egyptian government is going through unofficial channels, employing negotiators to talk to the Sinai terrorists. This has enraged the secular law and order types at home, who blasted the notion of negotiating with terrorists, and are concerned about the Sinai jihadists’ influence on national policy.
It appears that no one knows who is to blame for the bloody attack in early August: was it the Hamas government in Gaza? Al Ahram cites Ramallah-based officials who say so, pointing to the proliferation of Hamas agents in the Sinai in recent years.
Hamas officials deny the charge, saying they are supporting President Morsi and will never do anything to damage his government. Indeed, Hamas has been on good behavior since the Morsi election, confirms Al Ahram.
So things are murky on the Sinai front. Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Sobhi Sidqi has met tribal chiefs, in an attempt to get them on the side of the army, especially to buy their cooperation with the intelligence services.
President Morsi sent in his official vehicles a delegation of mediators, including well-known Islamists, to go to Sinai and try to talk sense into the militants. Al Ahram knows about preparations for a meeting in Cairo this week, to hammer out an agreement on ending the violence in the Sinai.
Critics of the government are looking for more resolute ways of imposing law and order, preferably with less cajoling of members of violent groups.
Ashraf Al-Hefni, of the Revolutionary Socialists movement, declared: “The affiliation of the men currently involved in the negotiations is well known. It would have been more advisable for the government to prosecute those who embrace jihadist thinking instead of talking to them and trying to influence their thinking. There are some families in Sinai who have lost sons because of the violence.”
Al-Hefni promised: “We will support the government if it takes action against extremism and its manifestations.”
According to Sinai activist Mosaad Abu Fajr, government induced violence is the real problem, and that the government continues to deal with the wrong people. The mediators, sanctioned by the government, are preferring to hold talks with violent groups that dream of an Islamic state in Sinai, he said.
“This is an expression of failure. The state is not being defeated by social forces with a different political approach. It is being defeated by groups involved in violence,” Abu Fajr declared.
“What is hampering security in Sinai is not the Camp David accords, or the security addendum of the peace treaty. What is hampering security in Sinai is the lack of political imagination … Shall we address the Sinai with the imagination of Nelson Mandela? Should we forget about the mindsets of Abdel-Nasser, Mubarak, and Morsi, and think instead outside the box? Unless we do that, we may lose Sinai forever,” Abu Fajr argued.
The army is not particularly concerned with its critics. It has been talking to the Israelis, the Bedouins and the Palestinians, and has slowed down, if only temporarily, ‘Operation Eagle,’ the military campaign to eradicate terrorist hangouts in mountainous areas.
Squads of police, army, and intelligence services are still searching for suspects in the areas around Rafah, Sheikh Zoweid and Al-Arish, according to Sinai lawyer and activist Islam Kodeir.
Several suspects, including Palestinians, have been arrested. They had incriminating images on their smartphones, which connect them with the Rafah incidents.
The suspects are being interrogated.
Military expert Talaat Mosallam told Al Ahram that Operation Eagle has been a success in several ways. Just the presence of the army has helped track down some terrorist cells, even if by sheer coincidence, he said. The operation has also blocked trafficking lanes and shut down many of the tunnels that were used to smuggle arms and drugs to and from Gaza.
Here’s a story about pots rebuking kettles over the issue of blackness: Al Ahram reported on Monday that the extremist Salafist Nour Party is sending a delegation to the Sinai Peninsula to “raise religious awareness and combat extremism.”
The Sinai-bound commission will include members of the Shura Council (Egypt’s upper house of parliament), the Nour Party and the armed forces, as well as figures from Salafist Calling Islamist movement, security personnel and government officials.
The group will hold a series of meetings urging Sinai citizens to stand by the army in combating the supremacist Islamist groups roaming the area.
Nour Party leaders in the delegation will include the party’s secretary-general Galal Amin and Ashraf Thabet, a member of the party’s higher commission.
Also going are the Salafist Calling movement’s head Yasser Borhami and its spokesperson Abdel-Moneim El-Shahat.
El-Shahat and Borhami have made a number of controversial statements in the past, noted Al Ahram.
El-Shahat described the literature of Egyptian Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz as “inciting promiscuity, prostitution and atheism.” Borhami was quoted by Egyptian daily Al-Shorouk as saying a Muslim taxi driver should not transport a Christian priest if his destination is the church.
Borhami in particular has been outspoken regarding his views of Jews and Christians, describing both as “infidels”.
“I hold on to my stance that Jews and Christians are infidels, but they do have rights that Allah has given them,” he stated last December during a press conference in Dakahliah, north east of Cairo.
“We would never give up our thoughts for politics,” Borhami added.
Al-Nour’s MP Hazem Shoman is another Salafist sheikh who has made the headlines for his acid tongue and abrasive nature. He also spoke at the conference. “Deviating from Islamic Sharia is the reason why Egypt was vanquished in 1967 [by Israel] and 2,700 women have committed suicide for being spinsters,” Shoman said.
The planned visit comes after the August 5 armed assault on a Rafah army post which saw 16 soldiers killed and 7 others injured.
Cynical comments aside, the visit attests to the Egyptian Islamist leadership’s awareness of the need to corral their out of control rank and file in the Sinai, and the realization that this cannot be done with tanks and planes alone.
Egypt’s North Sinai is, for all intents and purposes, a war zone as of today, after Egyptian security forces – from both the army and police – have engaged with masked gunmen in several different areas in the early hours of Wednesday, a few hours after unknown masked gunmen had opened fire on three joint military-police checkpoints, according to Al Ahram
In many checkpoints, especially in the city of Al Arish, there were fire exchanges, as Egyptian troops and helicopters are combing the eastern area of El-Halal Mountain, hunting down masked gunmen.
According to eyewitnesses quoted by Al-Ahram, many gunmen were killed and injured in the raids, and several soldiers were injured as well. There are no exact tolls as of now.
Eyewitnesses also said Egyptian military jets have been pounding several spots in the Sheikh Zuweid town while chasing the terrorists.
Late Tuesday night, masked gunmen attacked three joint military-police checkpoints in North Sinai, two days after 16 border guards had been killed by unidentified assailants in an incident that has left the Sinai Peninsula in a state of chaos.
A civilian resident in Al-Arish City was caught in the line of fire and injured as the gunmen attacked Al-Risa checkpoint and two others on the main road between Al-Arish and Rafah, the city that was at the center of Sunday’s deadly attacks on Egyptian border guards.
The fire exchange lasted until the early hours of Wednesday, before military and police armored vehicles appeared in the area in an attempt to contain the situation.
Al Ahram noted that this is the 29th attack on Al-Risa checkpoint since the 2011 uprising that overthrew former president Hosni Mubarak. The Sinai has sunk into a state of lawlessness since then.
Many parties have traded accusations over the deadly attack that took place near the Gaza strip, which is governed by Islamist faction Hamas. No one has claimed responsibility yet for the terrorist operation.
The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Egypt President Mohamed Morsi hails, has accused Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad of carrying out the attack to “hinder Egypt’s progress.”
Hamas and Israel have both distanced themselves from the attack, with Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak saying he hoped it would serve as a “wake-up call” to Egypt, which has been slow to control the Sinai.
As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s armored car motorcade was riding through the Egyptian port city of Alexandria where she had given a speech on democratic rights, a tomato hit an accompanying Egyptian official in the face, and shoes and a water bottle were thrown at Hillary’s car, Reuters reports.
According to a senior U.S. official, said Clinton herself was not hit, since her vehicle had already turned a corner by the time of the incident. But she may have been able to hear the taunts of “Monica, Monica” which the protesters were chanting, a reference to the extra-marital affair conducted by her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Others had chanted the Arabic equivalent of ” Clinton go home,” according to an Egyptian security official.
According to Al Ahram, several liberal and Christian politicians and public figures condemned Clinton’s visit to Egypt, accusing the United States of favoring Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. There were several large demonstrations by liberal parties and movements, including the Free Egyptians party and the Front for Peaceful Change, against Clinton’s visit outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo, the presidential palace and the Four Seasons hotel in which Clinton was staying. The demonstrators were joined by supporters of Mubarak-era vice president Omar Suleiman.
A large group of Christian politicians – including Coptic MP Emad Gad, rights activist Michael Mounir, former MP Georgette Qeleini and business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, refused to meet with Clinton during her brief visit to Egypt.
In a joint statement on Sunday, they expressed their displeasure with Clinton’s decision to meet with members of Egypt’s Coptic-Christian community following earlier meetings with Muslim Brotherhood members and Salafists. They asserted that Clinton’s move served to “promote sectarian divisions.”
Clinton met with women and Christians, two groups with reasons to fear repression under a Muslim Brotherhood government.
“I will be honest and say some have legitimate fears about their future,” Clinton told reporters. “I said to them … no Egyptian, no person anywhere, should be persecuted for their faith, or their lack of faith, for their choices about working and not working. Democracy is not just about reflecting the will of the majority. It is also about protecting the rights of the minority.”
Clinton said the U.S. had learned that “the hard way,” pointing out that the U.S. constitution originally did not protect the rights of women or slaves.
Al Ahram reported that on Saturday the Front for Peaceful Change, a pro-revolution youth group, issued a statement calling on the Egyptian public to participate in the protests to register its rejection of perceived U.S. interference in Egypt’s affairs and its deal-making with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Al Ahram cites accusations of a secret agreement which was hammered out between the U.S. and the Brotherhood, which the paper says is a common refrain among the opponents of Clinton’s visit.
Emad Gad, a Coptic-Christian member of Egypt’s recently dissolved lower house of parliament, saw Clinton’s visit to Cairo in the context of an alleged U.S.-Brotherhood deal that enabled candidate Mohamed Morsi to assume Egypt’s presidency.
“In exchange for Morsi’s being named president, the Brotherhood is expected to protect Israel’s security by pressuring Hamas – the Brotherhood’s branch in Palestine – not to launch military attacks against Israel, and even accept a peace agreement with Tel Aviv,” Gad told Al-Ahram.
Gad, whom Al Ahram introduces as a prominent political analyst, told the paper that the U.S. was also supporting the Brotherhood in return for maintaining Mubarak-era agreements not to restore ties with Iran.
On Saturday night, according to Reuters, protesters outside Clinton’s Cairo hotel chanted anti-Islamist slogans, accusing the United States of engineering the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power.
In her speech at the recently re-opened U.S. consulate in Alexandria, Clinton rejected suggestions that the United States, which had been an avid supporter of the deposed Mubarak, was backing one faction over another in Egypt.
“I want to be clear that the United States is not in the business, in Egypt, of choosing winners and losers, even if we could, which of course we cannot,” Clinton said.
“We are prepared to work with you as you chart your course, as you establish your democracy,” she added. “We want to stand for principles, for values, not for people or for parties.”
According to Al Ahram, Egyptian journalist Adel Al-Gogari, 56, died on Wednesday night while discussing the crisis in Syria during a live televised broadcast on Iraqi Al-Hadath private channel in Media Production City, Cairo.
Al-Gogari, editor of Egypt’s Al-Anwar newspaper and Al-Ghad Al-Arabi magazine, suffered a blot clot following an intense phone debate over Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime with Brigadier-General Hossam, a member of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), who Al-Gogari had called a “fugitive soldier.”
Al-Gogari, a Nasserist, also accused the FSA of being funded by Israel during the show.
Al Ahram reports that Al-Gogari was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
The late journalist’s family announced on Facebook that they will receive condolences on Friday in his birthplace Abu-Suweir city in the canal governorate of Ismailia.
Al-Gogari recently appeared on Al-Jazeera Arabic’s controversial program “The Opposite Direction”, where he zealously defended the Syrian regime, claiming that what is happening in the war-torn country is “an international conspiracy” against Al-Assad.