OIC condemns attack on Egyptian troops in Sinai

ISTANBUL (AA) – The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Sunday condemned a militant attack that killed and injured 15 troops in Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsula.

In a statement, the Jeddah-based grouping underlined solidarity with the Egyptian authorities against terrorism that seek to harm the country's security and stability.

OIC Secretary-General Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen offered his condolences to families of the victims and the Egyptian government, reiterating the OIC condemnation of all forms of terrorism.

On Saturday, the Egyptian military said 15 troops were killed and injured when militants attacked a military checkpoint in the northern Sinai Peninsula.

Since February of last year, the Egyptian army has been waging extensive operations against Sinai-based militants suspected of carrying out a spate of attacks against security forces.

According to figures released by the military, at least dozens of Egyptian soldiers and hundreds of militants have been killed since the operation began.

The Sinai Peninsula has remained the epicenter of a militant insurgency since mid-2013 when Mohamed Morsi — Egypt’s first freely elected president — was ousted in a military coup.

Qatar condemns militant attack in Egypt's Sinai

By Ahmed Yousef

DOHA (AA) – Qatar has strongly condemned a militant attack that killed and injured 15 Egyptian troops in the restive Sinai Peninsula on Saturday.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry reiterated the Gulf state's rejection "of violence and terrorism no matter the motives and reasons".

It offered condolences to the Egyptian people and families of the victims.

The Egyptian military said 15 troops were killed and injured when militants attacked a military checkpoint in the northern Sinai Peninsula.

The Egyptian-Qatari relations have strained since 2013, when the military deposed Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, who was backed by Doha.

Qatar has given refuge to hundreds of members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group, who fled a harsh crackdown launched by the Egyptian authorities following the coup.

In mid-2017, Egypt joined a Saudi-led bloc in severing diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism, a claim vehemently denied by Qatar.

UPDATE – 15 Egyptian troops killed, injured in Sinai attack

UPDATE WITH HAMAS CONDEMNATION

CAIRO (AA) – At least 15 Egyptian troops were killed and injured in a militant attack in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula, according to the military on Saturday.

In a statement, military spokesman Col. Tamer Rifai said militants attacked a security checkpoint in the northern Sinai Peninsula.

Seven militants were killed in an exchange of fire with Egyptian forces, during which 15 troops were killed and injured, the spokesman said, without giving further details.

For its part, Palestinian group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, strongly denounced the attack.

In a statement, Hamas termed the attack as a “criminal act that targets Egypt’s security and stability”.

"These horrific acts aim to drag the region into a cycle of violence and terrorism," the statement said.

Since February of last year, the Egyptian army has been waging extensive operations against Sinai-based militants suspected of carrying out a spate of attacks against security forces.

According to figures released by the military, at least dozens of Egyptian soldiers and hundreds of militants have been killed since the operation began.

The Sinai Peninsula has remained the epicenter of a militant insurgency since mid-2013 when Mohamed Morsi — Egypt’s first freely elected president — was ousted in a military coup.

Political will necessary to solve Libya crisis: envoy

By Zuhal Demirci

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey's special envoy to Libya Emrullah Isler demanded international political will to solve the crisis in war-torn Libya.

"We want peace and stability in Libya," said Isler, calling on all parties involved to ''play a positive role and avoid double standards.''

On the 8th anniversary of the Feb. 17 revolution that ended Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule in Libya, Isler evaluated the search for national reconciliation in Libya and the recent situation in the country.

Isler, also an MP for the ruling Justice and Development Party, told Anadolu Agency that it is very easy to reach a solution in Libya with political will.

He added Libya's post-Arab spring civil war is similar to the one in Syria and Yemen, and ending the war in Syria will have a domino effect in the region.

The envoy slammed anti-Turkey propaganda spread by Khalifa Haftar — a former general under Gaddafi — in Egyptian, Saudi and UAE media.

''Countries investing in deadlock in Libya by providing all kinds of weapons, blame Turkey in an attempt to camouflage themselves and hide their vulnerabilities,'' said Isler.

'If Turkey were to support one side like you did, we would have changed the balance in the field. You are lying,'' Isler added.

Speaking about UN efforts for a roadmap on Libya, Isler said that Turkey hopes for its gradual implementation.

Isler said that Haftar, who is supported by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) but not involved in the political agreement, is trying to strengthen his influence by launching an operation in south of the country.

He said major players in the region are not concerned about the divisions in Libya and the status quo.

Isler also said that after his appointment as special envoy, he first visited the eastern part of the country, met with political actors other than Haftar and conveyed them the clear message that Turkey is against foreign interventions in the country and political dialogue is the only way forward.

Libya has been beset by turmoil since 2011, when a bloody NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of Gaddafi after more than four decades in power.

Since then, Libya’s stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of power — one in Tobruk and another in Tripoli — and a host of heavily armed militia groups.

15 Egyptian troops killed, injured in Sinai attack

CAIRO (AA) – At least 15 Egyptian troops were killed and injured in a militant attack in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula, according to the military on Saturday.

In a statement, military spokesman Col. Tamer Rifai said militants attacked a security checkpoint in the northern Sinai Peninsula.

Seven militants were killed in an exchange of fire with Egyptian forces, during which 15 troops were killed and injured, the spokesman said, without giving further details.

Since February of last year, the Egyptian army has been waging extensive operations against Sinai-based militants suspected of carrying out a spate of attacks against security forces.

According to figures released by the military, at least dozens of Egyptian soldiers and hundreds of militants have been killed since the operation began.

The Sinai Peninsula has remained the epicenter of a militant insurgency since mid-2013 when Mohamed Morsi — Egypt’s first freely elected president — was ousted in a military coup.

Egypt parliament approves constitutional changes

            <p>By Viola Fahmy</p>    <p>CAIRO (AA) - Egypt’s parliament on Thursday approved proposed constitutional changes that would increase the duration of presidential terms from four to six years.</p>    <p>A total of 485 out of 596 MPs voted in favor of the proposed amendments.</p>    <p>The changes will now be referred to the office of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, which is expected to set a date for a popular referendum on the issue.</p>    <p>Earlier this month, the Support Egypt Coalition, the country's largest parliamentary bloc, lodged an official request with the assembly to amend the country's national charter. </p>    <p>Al-Sisi’s supporters back the move, which, they say, will contribute to Egypt’s “stability”. </p>    <p>Opponents of the move, by contrast, including many journalists, say the changes -- if implemented -- would “set the country back years”. </p>    <p>Al-Sisi was elected president the same year that Egypt’s 2014 constitution was ratified -- and one year after he led a military coup against his predecessor, Mohamed Morsi. </p>    <p>In June of last year, al-Sisi was re-elected to a second presidential term, which is set to expire in 2022. </p>    <p>According to the constitution in its current form, al-Sisi cannot run for a third term in office. </p>    <p>The presidency, for its part, has yet to comment on the proposed constitutional adjustments, but al-Sisi has said in previous televised remarks that he had no intention to run for a third term in office.</p> 

Egypt executes 3 for 2013 murder of police officer

By Aydogan Kalabalik

CAIRO (AA) – Egyptian authorities on Wednesday executed three people convicted of killing a senior police officer in 2013, according to human rights sources.

Egypt's "Ministry of Interior executed three opponents convicted of killing Major General Nabil Farrag," Alaa Abdel-Munsef, a human rights activist, said.

The activist identified the three executed individuals as "Mohamed Farag, Mohamed Hemeida and Salah Hassan."

On Jan. 20, 2018 Egypt’s Court of Cassation, the country’s highest appellate court, upheld the death sentences handed down earlier against the three men.

The court sentenced four others to life imprisonment who were previously handed down death sentences and upheld a 10-year imprisonment sentence to five other defendants. One individual was acquitted.

The Egyptian authorities, however, have yet to confirm the reports, while lawyers of the condemned trio were not immediately available for comment.

In September 2013, Farrag was killed and nine troops of the police and military were injured in a security operation in western Cairo to arrest individuals suspected of violence.

A Cairo criminal court first ruled death sentences against 12 defendants including five tried in absentia and acquitted 11 other defendants in the same case.

All the defendants faced charges of murder and attempted murder as well possessing weapons, the charges the defendants denied.

Egypt parliament debates charter changes

CAIRO (AA) – Egypt’s parliament on Wednesday began debating proposed amendments to the country’s constitution.

Lawmakers held a session to discuss the amendments, which includes increasing the presidential term from four to six years, according to local media.

Following the discussions, the parliament will eventually set a session to vote on the final amendments before holding a referendum, a parliamentary source told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

Earlier this month, the Support Egypt Coalition, the country's largest parliamentary bloc, lodged an official request with the assembly to amend the country's national charter.

Supporters of Egypt’s regime have expressed support for the move, which, they say, would contribute to the country’s “stability”.

Opponents of the move, by contrast, including many journalists, say the proposed changes — if implemented — would “set the country back years”.

Notably, opposition lawmaker Haitham al-Hariri published a draft of the proposed amendments that include an interim article that allows incumbent President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to remain in power for 2034.

Al-Sisi was elected in the same year the new charter was ratified — and one year after leading a military coup against his predecessor, Mohamed Morsi.

In June of last year, al-Sisi was re-elected to a second presidential term, which is set to expire in 2022.

According to the constitution in its current form, al-Sisi cannot run for a third term in office.

The presidency has yet to comment on the proposed constitutional adjustments, but al-Sisi has said in previous televised remarks that he had no intention to run for a third term.

2 Palestinians killed inside Gaza border tunnel

GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) – Two Palestinians were killed inside a cross-border tunnel between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, according to the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza on Monday.

In a statement, the ministry said a 28-year-old Gazan died from "poison gas" inside the tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip.

The ministry said an officer, 39, was also killed during a "security mission to inspect the tunnel".

Two other security personnel were rescued by civil defense teams from inside the tunnel and were rushed to hospital for treatment, the statement said.

The statement, however, did not provide further details about the circumstances of the deaths.

Local Palestinian media on Sunday said that nine Palestinians had gone missing inside a tunnel after being bombed out by Egyptian military forces along Egypt-Gaza border.

There was no comment from the Egyptian military on the claim.

Following Egypt’s 2013 military coup against the country’s first freely-elected president Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian authorities began cracking down on Gaza’s cross-border tunnel network.

Cairo has attempted to justify the crackdown by pointing to an ongoing militant insurgency in Sinai, which erupted following the 2013 coup.

UPDATE – Egypt's Moussa calls for dialogue on charter changes

UPDATES WITH FURTHER DETAILS

CAIRO (AA) – Former foreign minister and presidential candidate Amr Moussa has called for national dialogue on proposed amendments to Egypt's constitution.

"I call for a wide national dialogue on the amendments," Moussa said in a statement on Saturday.

He said all opinions should be heard "to enrich the political life in the country and guarantee credibility to the amendments".

Moussa, a former Arab League Secretary-General, was the chairman of a panel that drafted Egypt's current constitution in 2014.

On Sunday, the Support Egypt Coalition, the country's largest parliamentary bloc, lodged an official request with the parliament to amend the country's national charter.

Supporters of Egypt’s regime have expressed support for the move, which, they say, would contribute to the country’s “stability”.

Opponents of the move, by contrast, including many journalists, say the proposed changes — if implemented — would “set the country back years”.

Moussa said a "state of anticipation and wondering" was prevailing in Egypt regarding the proposed charter changes.

"It is dangerous to have this [state of] anticipation and wondering turn into a negative situation that could have unwelcome results," he warned.

Notably, opposition member of parliament Haitham al-Hariri published a draft of the proposed amendments that include an interim article that allows incumbent President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to remain in power for 2034.

Al-Sisi was elected in the same year the new charter was ratified — and one year after leading a military coup against his predecessor, Mohamed Morsi.

In June of last year, al-Sisi was re-elected to a second presidential term, which is set to expire in 2022.

According to the constitution in its current form, al-Sisi cannot run for a third term in office.

The presidency has yet to comment on the proposed constitutional adjustments, but al-Sisi has said in previous televised remarks that he had no intention to run for a third term.