President Reuven Rivlin sent a letter on Monday to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to express his condolences over Sunday’s twin church bombings, claimed by the Islamic State terror group, that killed 45 people.
“I was shocked to hear of the tragic bombing attacks on innocent Egyptians at places of worship in Tanta and Alexandria,” Rivlin said. “On behalf of my wife, Nechama, the people of Israel and myself, I send our sincere condolences to Your Excellency and to all the people of Egypt at this difficult time.”
At least 17 people were killed at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, the historic seat of Christendom in Egypt. Another suicide attack killed at least 28 people inside St. George’s Church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, the Health Ministry said.
The Islamic State jihadist group claimed both bombings.
“I know that even such despicable acts of terrorism against minority groups that seek to divide [Egyptians] will not diminish the strong spirit of the Egyptian nation or prevent unity and harmonious coexistence between the different religious and ethnic groups in your country,” Rivlin said. “The Egyptian nation knows how to withstand those enemies and to continue its firm stand against such vicious terrorism.”
The Palm Sunday attacks, the single deadliest day for Christians in decades, rattled the community and prompted messages of support from abroad, including from Pope Francis, who is set to visit Egypt in the coming weeks, and President Donald Trump.
Israel meanwhile closed its Taba border crossing to Egypt after its anti-terrorism office warned of an “imminent” attack there, underlining fears of more violence. Southern Sinai, which has seen little of the violence plaguing the northern part of the peninsula, is a popular tourist destination.
The closure came hours before the start of the Passover holiday. Also Monday, a rocket attack claimed by the Islamic State affiliate in the peninsula hit the Israeli Negev.
The rocket smashed into a greenhouse in the community of Yuval, near the Egyptian border. The greenhouse was lightly damaged.
A 50-year-old man who was nearby when it struck suffered an anxiety attack as a result of the attack, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.