Egypt changes defense, interior ministers in cabinet overhaul

Updated 15 June 2018
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Egypt changes defense, interior ministers in cabinet overhaul

  • Mohamed Ahmed Zaki Mohamed was named minister of defense, replacing Sedki Sobhi.
  • El-Sisi in April won re-election with 97 percent of the vote.

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi replaced the interior and defense ministers in a major reshuffle Thursday, with security forces battling an Islamist insurgency at the start of his second term.
El-Sisi, who also named a new finance minister, swept to another four years in office against a token challenger at elections in March, pledging to tackle the raft of security and economic challenges facing the country.
Egyptian forces have since February been waging a sweeping operation against the local affiliate of the Daesh group in the restive North Sinai province.
The new cabinet under freshly appointed Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli, who previously served as housing minister, was sworn in live on state TV.
General Mohamed Ahmed Zaki Mohamed, who led the republican guard since August 2012, became the new defense minister in place of Sedki Sobhi.
Sobhi had held the post since taking over from El-Sisi when he ran for the top office in 2014, a year after spearheading the ouster of president Muhammad Mursi during mass protests.
The position of interior minister was filled by General Mahmoud Tawfiq, who had led the national security apparatus since October 2017, replacing Magdi Abdel Ghaffar.
Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed Moeet, who has previously held several government posts in various ministries, replaced Amr el-Garhy in the key role of finance minister.
Egyptian authorities are implementing a sweeping economic reform program that prompted the International Monetary Fund to approve a three-year, $12-billion loan in November 2016.
Authorities have since also floated Egypt’s currency, cut fuel subsidies and adopted a value added tax, measures which have led to soaring consumer prices.
Other changes included the ministers overseeing aviation, health, communications, environment, commerce and agriculture.
The former cabinet resigned on June 5, days after El-Sisi was inaugurated for a second term.
El-Sisi has long promised to wipe out the Islamist insurgency in the Sinai as a spate of deadly attacks have hit the country.
Officials say more than 200 jihadists and at least 35 soldiers have been killed since the military launched the “Sinai 2018” operation.
El-Sisi, who has been accused of stamping out dissent in the country, was re-elected in March for his second term with 97 percent of the vote.
He faced only one little-known challenger after more serious opponents were either detained or sidelined.


Israeli planes hit 25 targets in response to Gaza rocket fire

Updated 25 min 26 sec ago
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Israeli planes hit 25 targets in response to Gaza rocket fire

JERUSALEM: Israeli jets struck 25 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Wednesday after militants launched rockets and mortar shells at Israeli territory, the military said.
Two Hamas security men were lightly hurt in one air strike in the southern Gaza Strip, residents said. No casualties were reported in Israel after one of the most intense recent barrages of militant rocket launches and Israeli air strikes.
Air raid sirens and Israeli phone warning applications sounded throughout the pre-dawn hours.
The military counted 30 rockets and mortar shells fired at Israeli territory and said its Iron Dome anti-missile shield intercepted seven rockets.
Since its last war with Gaza’s dominant Hamas in 2014, Israel has stepped up efforts to prevent cross-border attacks, improving rocket interceptors and investing in technologies for detecting and destroying guerrilla tunnels.
In recent weeks, Palestinians have sent kites dangling coal embers or burning rags across the Gaza border to set fire to arid farmland and forests, others have carried small explosive devices in a new tactic that has caused extensive damage.
At least 127 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during mass demonstrations along the Gaza border since March 30 and the men sending the kites over the fence believe they have found an effective new weapon.
Israel’s deadly tactics in confronting the weekly Friday protests have drawn international condemnation.
Palestinians say the protests are an outpouring of rage by people demanding the right to return to homes their families fled or were driven from following the founding of Israel 70 years ago.
Israel says the demonstrations are organized by the Islamist group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip and denies Israel’s right to exist. Israel says Hamas has intentionally provoked the violence, a charge Hamas denies.
Around two million people live in Gaza, most of them the stateless descendants of refugees from what is now Israel. The territory has been controlled by Hamas for more than a decade, during which it has fought three wars against Israel.
Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade of the strip, citing security reasons, which has caused an economic crisis and collapse in living standards there over the past decade.