Security officials say suspected militants have killed a Christian merchant in the northern Sinai Peninsula.
They said 60-year-old Magdy Habashi was abducted last Saturday from the town of Sheikh Zweid. His decapitated body was found early Thursday in a cemetery, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Habashi is the second Christian to be killed in northern Sinai in less than a week. Coptic Christian priest Mina Abboud Sharobeen was gunned down by suspected militants last Saturday as he walked in an outdoor market.
There has been a backlash against Christians by Islamist militants for their activism against former President Mohammed Morsi, ousted by the military on July 3 after a wave of massive protests against his rule.
“In scattered locations across Egypt,” wrote Morning Star News, “mobs of hard-line Muslims enraged over the deposing of the country’s Islamist president [Muhammad Morsi] this week attacked Christian homes, business[es] and church buildings and were suspected in the shooting death of a priest.”
None of this should come as a surprise. As Gatestone Institute reported right at the beginning of the June 30 revolution, anonymous “letters addressed to the Copts threatened them not to join the protests, otherwise their ‘businesses, cars, homes, schools, and churches’ might ‘catch fire…. This message is being delivered with tact. But when the moment of truth comes, there will be no tact’.” Several popular and influential Brotherhood leaders and supporters made the same threats, including Sheikh Essam Abdulamek , Dr. Safwat Hegazy , Dr. Wagdi Ghoneim, and Sheikh Abdullah Badr.
True to their word, now that Morsi and the Brotherhood have been ousted, Egypt’s Christians are being heavily targeted by Brotherhood supporters. On July 3rd, in a village in al-Minya in Upper Egypt, the services building of St. George Church was looted and torched. Likewise, the evangelical Saleh Church in Delga was attacked and caught fire, while the villagers, the majority of whom are Copts, had their homes and businesses looted and torched. Two Christians were injured from the fires. According to the pastor of Delga Catholic Church, who was able to escape the fire only through the roof, “supporters of former President Morsi are engaged in continuous and unprecedented harassment of Copts. He said that a number of those people broke into the homes of Christians at gunpoint, terrorizing women, children and seizing gold jewelry and furniture. He contacted security forces, pleading for help. Witnesses said security arrived next morning.”
Another Islamic mob tried to “attack the main Coptic cathedral in Qena, but the military fought them off. The group moved on to attack Christian-owned homes and businesses in the area, sources said. Also on Wednesday (July 3), a mob attacked the Church of the Holy Virgin in the coastal town of Marsa Matrouh with stones, but the military also repelled them.” “It is a miracle no one was killed in the attacks” a woman told Morning Star News.
Four more Christians were slaughtered by Muslims in Luxor province. The attack is being positioned as “collective punishment”: some Muslims accused Christians in the village of killing a Muslim, although Christians deny it, saying the Muslim was killed by another Muslim, but the mob decided to scapegoat the Copts. Dozens of Christian homes and businesses were looted and torched. Hundreds of Coptic villagers fled.
Elsewhere in Egypt, Christians are being kidnapped and held hostage for ransom money, a phenomenon that has been on the increase, particularly the targeting of Coptic children.
“This is just the beginning,” said one Coptic Christian woman from Upper Egypt who was interviewed. “They won’t be happy until they steal everything we own and kill us all. How can anyone be full of so much hate? If I took my eyes off God, I would shrink and die.”
Another Egyptian woman, incensed at the overthrow of the tyrannical Brotherhood, and like all Brotherhood supporters, scapegoating Egypt’s Christian minority, declared, “I am a religious [Muslim] Egyptian lady. I tell the Christians one word. You live by our side! We will set you on fire! We will set you on fire!”
Regardless of who carried out the strikes in northwest Syria on Friday that reportedly destroyed a fresh crop of advanced Russian land-to-sea missiles, the silence that endured in its wake — ruptured Tuesday by the Free Syrian Army’s chief spokesman — is in the interest of both Israel and Bashar Assad.
Shortly after the pre-dawn strike, Syria’s state-run television channel dryly reported “a series of explosions” near the Alawite stronghold of Latakia.
Analysts who examined the photos spotted two launch pads with markings pointing north-west towards Tel Aviv and north-east towards Tehran. They are designed for Saudi Arabia's arsenal of lorry-launched DF 3 missiles, which have a range of 1,500-2,500 miles and can carry a two-ton payload.
The base, believed to have been built within the last five years, gives an insight into Saudi strategic thinking at a time of heightened tensions in the Gulf.
While Saudi Arabia does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel, it has long maintained discreet back channel communications as part of attempts to promote stability in the region.
The two countries also have a mutual enemy in Iran, though, which has long seen Saudi Arabia as a rival power in the Gulf. Experts fear that if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia would seek to follow suit.
The missile base, which is at al-Watah, around 125 miles south-west of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, was discovered during a project by IHS Jane'sto update their assessment of Saudi Arabia's military capabilities.
"We do not want to make too many inferences about the Saudi strategy, but clearly Saudi Arabia does not enjoy good relations with either Iran or Israel."
Officials at the Saudi Embassy in London did not get back with a response when contacted by The Telegraph. The Israeli Embassy in London said: "We have no comment on this matter."
Egypt is seeking permission to send thousands of soldiers to Sinai, in order to battle Islamist groups that have ensconced themselves there after fleeing Egypt's major cities. The Times of London said that Egyptian's military rulers had filed the request for a major deployment in Sinai earlier this week.
The current request would see the largest number of Egyptian troops in Sinai since the Yom Kippur War, and their mission would be more open-ended. Many Islamists, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups, have fled Cairo and Alexandria in recent days as the army clamps down on their movements, in the wake of the deposing of former President Mohammed Morsi.