El-Sissi vows to quash terrorism after police ambush

Egyptians carry the coffin of a policeman Capt. Ahmed Fayez during his funeral outside a mosque in Cairo's western suburb of Sixth of October, on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2017
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El-Sissi vows to quash terrorism after police ambush

CAIRO: In his first remarks after a deadly attack on the country’s police force, Egypt’s president vowed on Sunday to press ahead with the country’s war against terrorism, secure its borders and hunt down militants.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi’s remarks came nearly 48 hours after authorities officially announced that at least 16 policemen were killed in a brazen ambush by militants southwest of Cairo. Security officials told the AP and other media outlets that the death toll reached 54, making it one of the worst attacks against Egypt’s police in years. However, it was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting reports.
Chairing a meeting attended by the country’s top security officials, including defense and interior ministry representatives, El-Sissi said: “Egypt will continue its confrontation against terrorism and those financing and standing behind it, with strength, decisiveness and efficiency, until it’s curbed.”
His comments come as a cloud of ambiguity still hovers over the police raid gone wrong; a lack of information, charges of incompetence and conflicting accounts by officials to media outlets mark the incident.
The ambush began when security forces acting on intelligence moved against a purported militant hideout some 135 km outside Cairo. Backed by armored personnel carriers and led by senior counterterrorism officers, the police contingent drew fire and rocket-propelled grenades, according to the security officials. What happened next has not been clarified, but many officers were killed and others injured.
According to Egyptian media reports, the fallen policemen were given military funerals that were attended by a number of security officials.
The confusion around the incident sparked a debate on social media, with Egyptians divided over who to blame. Many suggested that the police force had been infiltrated by extremists given that some security officials said the ambush was carefully planned.
Along with conflicting reports of the death toll, authorities have also denied the authenticity of audio recordings, aired by pro-government media outlets, allegedly of policemen who took part in the operation. The speakers on the recordings can be heard pleading for help.
In a statement, the Interior Ministry said that the sources of the audio recordings are not known and that they carried “unrealistic details that have nothing to do with the reality.” It also warned against circulating such recordings and sowing confusion.
No militant group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place near Egypt’s vast western desert, where a previous series of attacks were blamed on militants pouring in from Libya. In addition to those militants, a local affiliate of Daesh is also spearheading an insurgency across the country and in the Sinai Peninsula.
Death sentences
In one of the latest trials involving extremists, an Egyptian criminal court on Sunday confirmed death sentences for 11 men and handed down life sentences to 14 others over charges including the attempted murder of policemen. The court ruling by Judge Mohammed Nagi Shehata — known for his severity — can be appealed. Five of those sentenced to death were tried in absentia.
The suspects were referred to court in 2015.


US to oppose UN Golan resolution, wins Israeli praise

John Bolton, US national security adviser.
Updated 21 sec ago
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US to oppose UN Golan resolution, wins Israeli praise

  • “The United States will no longer abstain when the United Nations engages in its useless annual vote on the Golan Heights,” she said in a statement on Thursday

JERUSALEM: The US said it would oppose for the first time an annual resolution at the UN calling on Israel to rescind its authority in the occupied Golan Heights, drawing praise from Israeli officials.
The Golan Heights form a buffer between Israel and Syria of about 1,200 square km. Israel captured most of it from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.
It annexed the territory in 1981, a move not recognized internationally.
The US has abstained in previous years on the annual “Occupied Syrian Golan” resolution, which declares Israel’s decision to impose its jurisdiction in the area “null and void,” but Washington’s UN envoy Nikki Haley said it would vote against the resolution in Friday’s vote.
“The United States will no longer abstain when the United Nations engages in its useless annual vote on the Golan Heights,” she said in a statement on Thursday.
“The resolution is plainly biased against Israel. Further, the atrocities the Syrian regime continues to commit prove its lack of fitness to govern anyone.”
Her comments came after the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, said in September that he expected Israel to keep the Golan Heights in perpetuity, in an apparent nod toward its claim of sovereignty over the territory.
Since early in Donald Trump’s presidency, Israel has lobbied for formal US endorsement of its control of the Golan.
Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, breaking with other world powers, though his national security adviser John Bolton told Reuters in August a similar Golan move was not under discussion.
In the past two years, Trump has twice ordered US-led airstrikes against targets in Syria in response to what Washington called the use of chemical weapons against civilians by President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Israeli officials praised the US move.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called it “extremely important,” saying on Twitter that “no sane person can believe that it (the Golan) should be given to Assad & Iran.”
Tehran has supported Assad during the civil war and Israel has been warning against Iranian military entrenchment in Syria.
Israel has closely monitored the fighting in Syria, where just across the Golan frontier battles have raged in clear view.