In a cabinet meeting,the president stressed the importance of countering attempts to “undermine security and stability in Egypt,” while discussing the latest developments regarding the displaced families, who have been “received and housed until terrorist elements are dealt with.”
In the past few days, churches in Ismailia have received dozens of Coptic families who escaped Arish for fear of being targeted after eight attacks against Christians in North Sinai over the past two weeks, including the murder of three people in El-Arish on Wednesday and Thursday.
Prime Minister Sherif Ismail ordered on Saturday the establishment of an operation room to coordinate the providing of services to the families,according to a cabinet statement.
The PM said in the statement that the operation room would coordinate with Ismailia, Qalioubiya, Cairo and Assiut governorates, as well as the Orthodox and Anglican churches, to ensure the necessary services are provided.
“The state is determined to continue its efforts to counter evil forces and extremism,” the PM said, sending his condolences to the victims’ families.
The statement added that the PM is following up on the developments in Arish and is in communication with a number of ministers and officials as well as Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II.
The cabinet statement highlighted that the families have been housed in youth ministry hostels in Ismailia as well as at the Anglican Church, adding that basic needs such as food have already been provided, while medical services and other needs will be provided shortly.
Social solidarity minister Ghada Waly visited on Saturday the International Youth Hostel in Ismailia to check on the Christian families staying there, assuring that this is a temporary situation and that they will be back to their homes within days.
Ismailia Governor Yassin Taher has said that the displaced families are welcome in the governorate, and that he has received many calls from the residents of Ismailia offering to host the displaced families.
The Anglican Church in Ismailia has received almost 30 Christian families, including 150 people, church official Nabil Shukrallah Basta told Ahram Arabic news website on Saturday, adding that more Christian families are expected to arrive today.
Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church issued a statement on Friday condemning “the repeated terrorist attacks targeting Egyptian Christians in North Sinai.”
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the latest attacks against Christians. However, last Monday, the Islamic State group released a video vowing to carry out attacks against the Christian community in Egypt and promising to “liberate Cairo,” even though the group’s activity has traditionally been centered in North Sinai.
The Egyptian army, which has been waging a war against the North Sinai Islamist insurgency — led mostly by Islamic State affiliate Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis — has killed hundreds of militants in intensified comprehensive military campaigns in the governorate.
In July 2016, Father Rafael Moussa of the Mar Girgis Church in El-Arish was gunned down by Islamic State militants.
The group has also killed civilians in North Sinai for allegedly cooperating with security forces.