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Israel calls for joint fight against terror after Egypt bombings

Germany, France and Hamas terror group also condemn IS attack against Copts on Palm Sunday

Egyptians wheel away a body near a church in Alexandria after a bomb blast struck worshippers gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday on April 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Stringer)
Egyptians wheel away a body near a church in Alexandria after a bomb blast struck worshippers gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday on April 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

Israel sent its condolences to Egypt on Sunday after at least 37 people were killed in two church bombings.

The blasts, which were claimed by the Islamic State terror group, killed 11 in a suicide bombing outside St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, and 26 a few hours earlier in a blast inside a church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta north of Cairo.

In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said that it wished a speedy recovery to the wounded. It also said “the world has to come together and fight terrorism everywhere.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely also sent her condolences to Egypt after the bombings, saying in a statement that Israel was ready to assist Egypt after the attack “against the forces of evil.”

Egyptians gather at near a church in Alexandria after a bomb blast struck worshippers gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday on April 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/ Stringer)
Egyptians gather at near a church in Alexandria after a bomb blast struck worshippers gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday on April 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/ Stringer)

“Terror doesn’t stop in Stockholm, Saint Petersburg​, Berlin, London or Jerusalem. Today’s terror attack near Cairo reminds us that Egypt too is under attack,” she said.

“Alongside the sorrow and grief, we need to join forces against the forces of evil and terror with an iron fist. Israel is part of the international campaign against terror wherever it strikes and is ready to assist in order to rein it in.”

Opposition MK and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni wrote in Arabic on her Twitter account that “we share in the pain and struggle against terrorism together, as innocent victims fall in Egypt.”

Egypt’s interior ministry said that a suicide bomber was behind the blast outside St. Marks Church in Alexandria. The bomber tried to storm the church where Coptic Pope Tawadros II was leading a Palm Sunday service but blew himself up when police prevented him from entering, the ministry said in a statement.

In this Feb. 17, 2015 file photo, Pope Tawadros II, the pope of the Coptic Church of Egypt, walks to his office at St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)
In this Feb. 17, 2015 file photo, Pope Tawadros II, the pope of the Coptic Church of Egypt, walks to his office at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

A Coptic Church official said Tawadros had left the church before the blast.

Germany also condemned the bombings and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement Sunday that “the aim of the perpetrators, to drive a wedge between people of different faiths living peacefully side-by-side, mustn’t be allowed to happen.”

French President Francois Hollande expressed France’s solidarity with Egypt, saying in a written statement that “one more time, Egypt is hit by terrorists who want to destroy its unity and its diversity.”

He said France “mobilizes all its forces in association with the Egyptian authorities in the fight against terrorism,” and offered condolences to the families of the victims.

A general view shows people gathering outside the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in the Nile Delta City of Tanta, 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Cairo, after a bomb blast struck worshippers gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017. (AFP/KHALED DESOUKI)
A general view shows people gathering outside the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in the Nile Delta City of Tanta, 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Cairo, after a bomb blast struck worshippers gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017. (AFP/KHALED DESOUKI)

In addition, the Hamas terror group also condemned the church bombings.

In a statement Sunday, the Islamic terror group described the attack as “a crime.”

Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said “Hamas wishes safety, security, stability and prosperity for Egypt and its people.”

Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 after ousting forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Its relationship with neighboring Egypt has declined after the military ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Hamas has since been attempting to improve ties with Cairo.

A general view shows people looking at the aftermath following a bomb blast which struck worshippers gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday at the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in the Nile Delta City of Tanta, north of Cairo, on April 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Stringer)
A general view shows people looking at the aftermath following a bomb blast which struck worshippers gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday at the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in the Nile Delta City of Tanta, north of Cairo, on April 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

The two attacks are the latest in a series of assaults on Egypt’s Christian minority, which has been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists. It comes just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit the Arab world’s most populous country.

Pope Francis decried the first bombing, expressing “deep condolences to my brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and all of the dear Egyptian nation.” Word of the bombing came as Francis himself was marking Palm Sunday in St. Peter’s Square.

The attack adds to fears that IS’s affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula, which has long been battling security forces, may shift its focus to civilians.

IS claimed last December’s bombing of a Cairo church that killed 29 people, and threatened further attacks on Egyptian Christians.

Egypt’s Copts are one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East, accounting for around 10 percent of Egypt’s 92 million people, and have long complained of discrimination.

The Copts were largely supportive of the military overthrow of president Mohammed Morsi, a senior Muslim Brotherhood figure, and incurred the wrath of many Islamists, who attacked churches and other Christian institutions after his ouster.

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