Egypt’s Sisi opens mega-mosque and Middle East’s largest cathedral in New Capital

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Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi accompanied by Coptic Pope Tawadros II, during Christmas Eve Mass at the new "Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ," in the new administrative capital. (AP)
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Christian worshippers in the new Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ. (AFP)
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A picture taken on on January 3, 2019 shows a partial view of the interior of the newly-built al-Fattah al-Alim mosque in Egypt's new administrative capital, 45kms east of Cairo. (AFP)
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A picture taken on January 3, 2019, shows a general view of the newly-built al-Fattah al-Alim mosque in Egypt's new administrative capital, 45kms east of Cairo. (AFP)
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A member of Egyptian Army walks in the new Coptic Cathedral "The Nativity of Christ" before Sunday's Coptic Christmas Eve Mass in the New Administrative Capital (NAC) east of Cairo, Egypt January 3, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 07 January 2019
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Egypt’s Sisi opens mega-mosque and Middle East’s largest cathedral in New Capital

  • Saturday’s explosion on the eastern edge of Cairo that killed a policeman who was trying to defuse the device
  • Coptic Christians have been hit by a string of attacks

CAIRO: President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi inaugurated Egypt's largest church and mosque in the New Administrative Capital on Sunday, the eve of Coptic Christmas, in a symbolic message of tolerance in the predominantly Muslim nation.
Copts, the largest Christian minority in the Middle East, were due hold a midnight mass in the Cathedral of the Nativity, billed by the government as the Middle East's largest church, a few hours after the inauguration.
Coptic Christians make up an estimated 10 percent of Egypt's nearly 100 million people and have long complained of discrimination under laws that favour Muslims.
They have also increasingly been targeted in recent years by militants including Daesh, which is waging an insurgency in the north of the remote Sinai Peninsula.
Foreign dignitaries and officials including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Arab League Chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit flanked Sisi at the opening, state television showed.
Angham, a prominent local singer, sang for Muslim-Christian coexistence as a display of fireworks lit the skies over the two houses of worship.
"On this day we see you have fulfilled this promise and here we are witnessing a great opening on this grand occasion," the head of the Coptic church Pope Tawadros II said. He will preside over midnight mass later in the evening with Sisi in attendance.
US President Donald Trump also praised the opening of the church and the mosque.
"Excited to see our friends in Egypt opening the biggest Cathedral in the Middle East. President El-Sisi is moving his country to a more inclusive future," Trump tweeted on Sunday.
The Cathedral of the Nativity, adorned with Coptic icons, can accommodate more than 8,000 worshippers while the Al-Fattah Al-Aleem Mosque can hold nearly double the number. Both are located in the new administrative capital, a major development located some 45 km (28 miles) east of Cairo.
Contractors have been clearing debris from the perimeter of the cathedral in the last two weeks in preparation for its grand opening, a Reuters witness said.
The new Egyptian capital, announced in March 2015, is intended partly to reduce crowding in Cairo but will also be home to government ministries and an airport. The government is expecting to begin moving to the new premises later this year.


Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

A firefighting aircraft flies over a forest near Kibbutz Harel, which was damaged by wildfires during a record heatwave, in Israel May 24, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 May 2019
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Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

  • Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Thursday as fires raged
  • The fires were fueled by high temperatures and dry condition

JERUSALEM: Egypt and four European countries sent aircraft to help Israel battle wildfires that have forced the evacuation of some small towns, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday, as a record heatwave looked set to worsen conditions.
At an emergency briefing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had appealed for international help to combat the fires, and that firefighting planes were coming in from Greece, Croatia, Italy and Cyprus.
Egypt, on the orders of President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, had also sent two helicopters to assist Israel, Netanyahu told reporters.
The Palestinian Authority and Russia had also offered help, Netanyahu said.
Israel braced for wildfires on Friday amid a major heat wave that shows no signs of abating.
Israel “really appreciates” the help, Netanyahu said, singling out El-Sisi for sending aid.
“I am deeply thankful for the readiness of neighbors to help us in a time of crisis, just as we help them,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service said blazes in a key corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were mostly under control but difficult weather remained a conflagration risk.
“As of this moment, this (containment) is being done in the best possible way, but the challenge is yet ahead of us given the weather conditions, the winds and the extreme heat,” Netanyahu said.
Some 3,500 residents of small towns in the path of the fires were evacuated on Thursday, officials said. Dozens of homes have burned down.

Evacuations
Thousands of people were evacuated from towns and dozens of homes were burned on Thursday as fires raged, fueled by high temperatures and dry conditions. Over 500 acres of woodland have burned, said Nitai Zecharya, an Israeli official from the Jewish National Fund, known for planting forests in the country.
Zecharya said that while firefighters had brought most of the blaze under control, officials remained “very stressed” about strong winds fanning flames and “spreading fires to other fronts.”
The cause of the fires remains unclear, but they erupted following the Jewish festival of Lag Ba’Omer, which observers mark with bonfires.
A sweltering heat wave is pushing temperatures in parts of the country up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 Celsius.