Daesh calls on fighters to disrupt Egypt’s vote with attacks
Daesh calls on fighters to disrupt Egypt’s vote with attacks
The authenticity of the 23-minute video posted late Sunday on websites known to be sympathetic to the group could not be independently verified, but appeared similar to past releases by Daesh. The video makes a brief mention of an ongoing offensive by security forces against Daesh, suggesting it was made after the campaign began Friday.
The video showed what appeared to be footage of past Daesh attacks in Sinai and the gruesome killings of unarmed off-duty soldiers or men suspected of collaborating with security forces. The timing of its release and its contents, however, appear designed to project an image of the group as a resilient force in the face of what is possibly the largest offensive by government forces since the insurgency began nearly five years ago.
Egypt’s military says it has destroyed dozens of targets, killed scores of militants and detained many suspects as part of the operation, which targets “terrorist and criminal elements and organizations” and involves land, naval and air forces from the army and police. The operation covers north and central Sinai, the Nile Delta and the Western Desert along Egypt’s porous border with Libya, home to a number of militant groups.
Branding elections an act of “apostasy,” a Daesh operative speaking to the camera in the video called on the “soldiers” of the group to “spoil the day of their apostasy, shed their blood and target the heads of apostasy among them.” He also called on Muslims in Sinai and elsewhere in Egypt to stay away from polling centers and other vote-related installations, saying they would be targeted on the days of the election. The vote is staggered over three days — March 26, 27 and 28.
Such threats are routine from militant groups opposed in principle to democratic practices, or even a hollow version of them. They also rarely materialize.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s re-election is virtually assured in the March vote. After a string of potentially serious challengers have either been arrested or forced out of the race, el-Sisi’s only challenger is an obscure politician who is also among his ardent supporters. Moussa Mustafa Moussa’s last-minute entry into the race saved el-Sisi and his government from the embarrassment of a one-candidate election.
A coalition of eight opposition parties and scores of prominent pro-democracy figures called last month on voters to boycott the elections. This week, prosecutors began an investigation into complaints by pro-government lawyers accusing them of “incitement against the state” and seeking to destabilize the country.
The move by the prosecutors was the latest sign that authorities were not prepared to allow even a hint of dissent or any questioning of el-Sisi’s continued rule ahead of the vote.
On Monday, Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Al, a die-hard el-Sisi supporter who presides over a chamber packed with backers of the president, claimed that politicians calling for a boycott had no popular support. He also accused them of being unpatriotic. Abdel-Al, according to the official MENA news agency, was speaking at a plenary session debating legislation to set up a fund to “honor” victims of terror attacks.
Egypt’s security forces have for years fought militants in Sinai, but the insurgency became deadlier and expanded after the military in 2013, then led by el-Sisi, ousted an Islamist president, whose one year in office proved divisive. El-Sisi later oversaw what is perhaps the largest crackdown on dissent in Egypt’s modern history, jailing thousands of Islamists along with scores of secular, pro-democracy activists.
He also curbed freedoms and placed heavy restrictions on the work of rights groups as he pursued an ambitious economic reform program that has left the country’s poor majority struggling in the face of soaring prices.
Prince William on first official royal visit to Occupied Territories and Israel
- The second-in-line to the British throne is due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
- There is a pretty naked desire to build relationships and Israel is a warm target for an increase in trade
LONDON: Prince William will embark on the first official visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories by a member of the British royal family on Sunday.
But even with more than 120 Palestinians killed in protests in Gaza during recent weeks and controversy still surrounding the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, the second-in-line to the throne is not expected to talk politics.
Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), told Arab News that the four-day tour is likely to focus on making trade deals in preparation for Britain’s departure from the EU next year, rather than on addressing the moribund Middle East peace process.
“There is a pretty naked desire to build relationships and Israel is a warm target for an increase in trade,” he said.
The visit risks “normalizing” the abusive regime under which Palestinians live, he added.
“Of course Prince William has to go to both the Israeli and Palestinian sectors or there would have been outrage. But there is a risk of his visit making it appear more acceptable and normal to carry out abuses of international law like the blockade of Gaza,” Doyle said.
William begins his Middle Eastern tour on Sunday in Jordan, a long-time ally of Britain. On Tuesday he will move on to Jerusalem, where he will visit Yad Vashem, the official memorial to Holocaust victims, meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and later attend a football event with a mixed Arab and Jewish team.
On Wednesday he will meet young activists, both Arab and Jewish, who are involved in education and social programs, and also cross into the Occupied Palestinian Territories to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah before attending an event focusing on Palestinian refugees.
He is due to deliver a speech at a reception hosted by the American consul in Jerusalem. However, protocol prevents him from making any remarks that might be deemed partisan. Doyle told Arab News this was a pity in view of how William’s mother, the late Princess Diana, championed justice for the oppressed.
“It is a pity that someone of his status, who clearly cares about his mother’s legacy, cannot give voice to real major concerns about the treatment of the Palestinians and the human rights abuses that are daily issues for them under Israeli control but which will be airbrushed out,” he said.
“Yes, he will see co-operative programs and Arabs and Jews playing football together, but the reality is that the Palestinian footballers can only travel to matches with Israeli permission.”
William was a surprise choice for the visit. Many expected the task to fall to his father, Prince Charles, who has more experience of countries which are politically extremely sensitive. But it is thought he was chosen because his youth chimes better with young Israelis working in hi-tech fields who he is scheduled to meet. Among Palestinians, his presence will barely register, said Doyle.
“I hope the language can be found for him to say something to his Israeli hosts, that his visit will be more than window-dressing, but the reality is it’s very unlikely. So the visit won’t register as important with Palestinians. They don’t want to be part of some tourist show or box-ticking exercise,” he said.