TIME Egypt

Egypt Court Declares Hamas ‘Terrorist Organization’

Palestinian members of al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, display weapons during a military parade marking the 27th anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Gaza City
Suhaib Salem—Reuters Palestinian members of al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, display their weapons during a military parade marking the 27th anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Gaza City Dec. 14, 2014. The Palestinian group has been declared a terrorist organization by an Egyptian court.

The Palestinian group once enjoyed support of Egypt's deposed Muslim Brotherhood

Egypt’s state news agency is reporting that a Cairo court has declared Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, a “terrorist organization.”

The short report Saturday by MENA said the Court For Urgent Matters, presided over by Judge Mohamed el-Sayed, issued the ruling Saturday. It did not elaborate.

Last month, an Egyptian court banned Hamas’ military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, and also designated it a terrorist organization.

The ruling further isolates Hamas, which once found open support under Egypt’s toppled Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Egypt’s new government recently has begun clearing a buffer zone along its border with Gaza in an attempt to destroy a cross-border network of tunnels that Hamas considers a lifeline.

In Gaza, Hamas official Mushir al-Masri condemned the decision and urged Egypt to reverse course.

 

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 26

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. It’s time to break up the NSA.

By Bruce Schneier at CNN

2. By prescribing appearances, sororities are contributing to a culture of segregation.

By Clio Chang in U.S. News and World Report

3. In Egypt, the U.S. still values security over human rights.

By the Editorial Board of the Washington Post

4. Bartering for eggs is saving giant turtles in Cambodia.

By Yoeung Sun at Conservation International

5. How does Internet slang work its way into American Sign Language?

By Mike Sheffield, Antwan Duncan and Andrew Strasser in Hopes and Fears

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 24

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. For some returning from war, a ‘G.I. bill for farming’ eases the transition home.

By Abby Wendle at Harvest Public Media

2. In Egypt, a class project to fight sexual harassment has grown into a campus-wide movement encouraging women to “Speak Up.”

By Ahmed Fouad in Al-Monitor

3. Your kid’s school is missing the tech revolution, and it’s all your fault.

By Jason Tanz in Wired

4. Community courts focus on rehabilitation and compassion for non-violent offenders.

By Henry Gass in the Christian Science Monitor

5. A new ‘Uber for packages’ service is partnering with Waffle House to build a network of delivery points around the south.

By Amar Toor in the Verge

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Egypt

Christians Mourn Their Relatives Beheaded by ISIS

Men mourn over Egyptian Coptic Christians who were captured in Libya and killed by militants affiliated with ISIS, inside the Virgin Mary Church in the village of Al-Aour, Egypt, Feb. 16, 2015.
Hassan Ammar—AP Village residents inside the Virgin Mary Church in al-Our, Egypt, on Feb. 16, 2015, mourn Egyptian Coptic Christians who were captured in Libya and killed by ISIS militants

The 21 men have been declared martyrs by the Coptic Church

In the yard of the Coptic church in the village of al-Our, dozens listen to the words of a preacher speaking into a microphone. His words rise and fall as he says: “The life we live is but numbered days that will quickly pass, the Bible says.”

His words were intended to comfort a congregation mourning 13 of its members who were among the 21 men slaughtered on a Mediterranean beach in a video released last week by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). Al-Our is in Egypt’s Minya province, 150 miles south of Cairo, a farm community of some 6,000 Muslims and Christians living in brick, mud and stone houses. Following the spectacular murders of its residents, the town was thrust to the center of the crisis emanating from Libya, where ISIS has established a foothold in the chaos of a civil war.

“I felt peace knowing that they died as martyrs in the name of Christ,” says Bashir Estefanous Kamel, 32, whose two younger brothers and one cousin were among the victims. Kamel says he watched the video depicting the men’s execution as soon as it was available. “Of course, the first reaction was sadness at being separated from family.”

In Christianity, a person is considered a martyr if they are killed because of their faith. Christian martyrs include many early Christians such as St. Peter and St. Paul and more recent examples are priests and nuns killed in German concentration camps or during the Spanish Civil War. Egypt’s Coptic Christians, who make up between 10% and 20% of Egypt’s population of 80 million, are among many of the recent Christian martyrs. In two recent attacks by Muslim gunmen and mobs, eight Copts were shot in Nag Hammadi in 2010 and 21 killed in rioting in Kosheh in 2000. The ISIS victims are depicted next to the throne of Jesus on banners, which are suspended inside and outside the church in al-Our.

Like tens of thousands of other Egyptians, Kamel’s brothers, Bishoi Estefanous Kamel, 25, and Samuel Estefanous Kamel, 22, had gone to Libya in search of work they could not find at home. Even in recent years of turmoil, Libya’s oil-based economy continued to draw workers, especially from Egypt’s poorer regions. In al-Our, average residents earn between $3 and $4 a day. “It’s a hard life,” says Bashir Kamel. “If you don’t work all day, you don’t eat at night.”

Both brothers had completed two years of university, earning diplomas in industry and agriculture respectively, but could not find gainful employment in Minya. A few months after completing his mandatory military service, Samuel followed his older brother to Libya, where they worked as laborers in the city of Sirt, living among other Egyptian workers.

In December, the murder of an Egyptian Coptic doctor and his wife in Sirt punctured the workers’ sense of security. According to their older brother, Bishoi and Samuel Kamel had planned to return home to Egypt as soon as possible. Then, on Dec. 29, seven Copts were kidnapped from a minibus taking them back to Egypt. A second group was seized from their lodgings in Sirt days later. Bashir Kamel speculates that members of the first group of hostages disclosed the location of the workers’ housing under torture.

The night of the release of the execution video, the village priest, Father Makar Issa went from house to house in an attempt to comfort the families. “There was wailing in every street, every alleyway,” he says. “People were shocked.”

According to Issa, his congregants’ sorrow gave way, within days, to a kind of joy expressed at the men’s martyrdom. On the third day after the video, people gathered in the church. “The women were congratulating each other,” he says. As they left the church, women ululated.

“I am certain it had a positive effect, not a negative effect,” says Issa. “In the month and a half when the people were kidnapped, the whole congregation was coming to the church to pray for their return, but in their prayers later on, they asked that if they died, they die for their faith, and that’s what happened. The congregation is actually growing, psychologically and spiritually.”

Several relatives of the victims applaud Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s decision to bomb ISIS targets in eastern Libya within hours of the release of the execution video. “It’s an honor to us that our government did not let their blood be spilled cheaply,” says Bashir Kamel. “We feel proud.”

Egypt remains polarized in the wake of the military takeover, led by al-Sisi, in which elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was deposed in July 2013. But a powerful coalition stands behind al-Sisi, who has vowed to combat militancy.

Bebawi Yousef, 35, a teacher at a local private school whose two brothers were also killed, echoes Kamel’s sentiment. “We feel proud of our President Sisi. We feel he is keeping us safe.”

Sobhi Ghattas Hanna, whose cousin was killed, says he wants the world to stand with Egypt. “We feel comforted by Sisi’s stance. He ordered the military to strike Libya directly after the video was published,” he says. “We want the whole world to stand beside Sisi in his fight against terrorism.”

TIME conflict

Pope Francis Condemns ISIS Killing of Coptic Christians

VATICAN-MASS-POPE-CARDINALS
Andreas Solaro—AFP/Getty Images Pope Francis leads a mass on February 15, 2015 at St. Peter's basilica in Vatican.

'The blood of our Christian brothers is a witness that cries out'

Pope Francis on Monday condemned the killing of 21 Coptic Christians hostages in Libya by militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), according to a Vatican Radio report.

“The blood of our Christian brothers is a witness that cries out,” he told a delegation from Scotland on Monday. “If they are Catholic, Orthodox, Copts, Lutherans, it is not important: They are Christians. The blood is the same: It is the blood which confesses Christ.”

Read More: Beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya Shows ISIS Branching Out

The hostages, believed to be laborers from Egypt, are now “martyrs,” Francis said.

The Libyan extremist group, which swears fealty to ISIS, released a five-minute video Sunday showing militants with knives killing 21 people wearing orange jumpsuits on a beach.

Egyptian authorities confirmed the authenticity of the video, and President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi launched air strikes against targets in Libya hours after vowing to avenge the deaths.

TIME Egypt

Egypt Launches Air Raids Against ISIS Bases in Libya

Islamic State Copts
Hassan Ammar—AP Coptic Christian men whose relatives were abducted by ISIS militants gather in the village of el-Aour, near Minya, Egypt, on Feb. 13, 2015

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said Egypt had the right to punish “those inhuman criminal killers”

Egyptian warplanes launched fresh sorties against militants allied with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) on Monday after the jihadists released a gruesome video showing the apparent execution of more than a dozen Egyptian hostages over the weekend.

Egypt’s air force reportedly targeted ISIS training sites and weapons storage areas in Libya at dawn, reports Reuters.

“The air strikes hit their targets precisely, and the falcons of our air forces returned safely to their bases,” read a statement released by the nation’s military on Monday.

Hours before the strikes began, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi promised during a televised address to retaliate against the militants responsible for the murder of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians who had been working in Libya as laborers.

“Egypt reserves the right to respond at the proper time and in the appropriate style in retaliation against those inhuman criminal killers,” al-Sisi said, according to the BBC.

Fighters associated with ISIS have flocked to the group’s strongholds in eastern Syria and swaths of northern Iraq. However, years of instability in war-torn Libya have also allowed the group to expand its influence into pockets of North Africa.

TIME Egypt

The Real Reason Egypt Is Buying Fighter Jets From France

Dubai Air Show
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A Rafale fighter jet aircraft, manufactured by Dassault Aviation SA, is seen performing an aerial display during the 13th Dubai Airshow at Dubai World Central (DWC) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Monday, Nov. 18, 2013.

It has nothing to do with France, and everything to do with the United States

Correction appended Feb. 15, 2015

After twenty years of searching, France has finally found a buyer for its Rafale fighter jet. President Francois Hollande announced on Thursday that Egypt will buy 24 aircraft as part of a deal reportedly valued at 5.2 billion euros ($5.9 billion), and his Defense Minister is heading to Cairo on Monday to sign the agreement.

France has been flying its domestically built Rafale jet since 2006, putting it to the test over countries like Afghanistan, Libya, Mali and most recently in the U.S.-led airstrikes on ISIS. But manufacturer Dassault Aviation has struggled to sell it abroad. Deals with Brazil, Libya, Morocco and Switzerland have all fallen through, and negotiations with India and Qatar are ongoing.

Then came Egypt. Hollande said in a statement that Egypt was seeking “aircraft quickly, due to the threats that it faces.” He added, “I believe that, given the current context, it’s very important that Egypt is able to act to uphold stability and to be in security.”

Still, budget-strapped Egypt may appear to be a surprising buyer for the French fighter jet. It already has the largest air force in Africa, and the Rafale, one of the most sophisticated fighter jets on the market, is unlikely to significantly boost its capabilities to combat insurgencies on the ground.

Egypt’s purchase may instead be aimed at diversifying its supply, experts say. The military has traditionally been one of America’s most dependable arms customers thanks to roughly $1 billion in U.S. annual aid that Egypt is largely required to spend on American gear. But Washington suspended aid after the military ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

While U.S. aid has been restored, relations have soured. Earlier this week, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who led the military takeover, hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin in Cairo and agreed on a joint plan to build Egypt’s first nuclear power plant. By opting for French military hardware, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is again demonstrating that his government doesn’t rely exclusively on the U.S. “Egypt has been so dependent on the U.S. that it is beginning to try to find some kind of contingency arrangement so that it can’t be levered by Congressional pressure to change their policies on dealing with dissidents,” says Anthony Cordesman, Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “You’re sending a message.”

To be sure, Egypt faces security threats on multiple fronts. In the restive Sinai peninsula, Islamist insurgents who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria have launched repeated deadly attacks on the military and oil facilities. On its Western border, a power vacuum in Libya since the 2011 ouster of Muammar Gaddafi (thanks in part to French Rafale airstrikes) has given Islamist groups a foothold. Highlighting why Sisi sees them as a threat, a Libyan group with ties to the ISIS kidnapped 21 Coptic Egyptian last month.

But Egypt does not need the Rafale to confront those threats, experts say. The air force already has as many as 230 F-16 fighter jets, Robert Springborg, a professor at France’s Science Po and expert on the Egyptian military, told Le Monde newspaper. The problem is not the lack of planes but the lack of sufficiently trained pilots, he says. And in the Sinai, in particular, American-provided Apache helicopters will be more effective than jets against the insurgency. “One thing is very clear,” says Cordesman. “On the basis of national priorities there is no military urgency to buy more combat aircraft.”

The Egyptian economy, meanwhile, has still not recovered from the tumult that followed the Arab Spring protests that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Sisi’s government has been bolstered largely by some $12 billion in aid from the oil-rich Gulf nations. Thirteen percent of the country is still unemployed, including more than half of the population under 25. The IMF projects that growth will reach 3.8 percent this fiscal year, a step in the right direction, but still well below its average five percent clip ahead of the 2011 protests.

But France has been “desperate” to sell the Rafale after twenty years, Cordesman says. While Egyptian media has reported that Gulf states have funded recent Egyptian military deals, French banks will put up financing for more than half of the purchase price. And though it’s unclear what Egypt is paying per plane, Cordesman says it’s likely that France is already providing a steep discount to Egypt to notch the first sale as it negotiates a much larger order of 126 planes with India. “My guess is that they’re not paying list, or anything like it,” he says.

The original version of this story misidentified the speaker of quotations about Egypt purchasing the Rafale jet from France. It was Anthony Cordesman.

TIME Music

1980s Pop Pioneer Steve Strange Has Died

He pioneered a look and sound that inspired many of the era's biggest acts, including Boy George and Duran Duran

Steve Strange, the former lead singer of popular 80s band Visage, best known for their breakout single Fade to Grey, died of a heart attack in Egypt on Thursday.

Strange, 55, was in a hospital in Sharm-el-Sheikh, the BBC reported.

Born Steve Harrington, Strange co-founded the Blitz Club in London’s trendy Soho district, a venue that pioneered the New Romantic movement and gave several top U.K. acts of the 1980s — including Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Boy George’s Culture Club — a stepping stone on their way to global stardom.

Members of all three bands expressed their condolences on social media.

TIME Egypt

Egypt Court Releases 2 Al Jazeera Journalists

Al Jazeera Egypt Bahed Mohamed Fahmy
Heba Elkholy—AP In this March 31, 2014 file photo, Al-Jazeera English producer Baher Mohamed, left, Canadian-Egyptian acting Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, right, appear in court along with several other defendants during their trial on terror charges, in Cairo.

The pair still face a re-trial

An Egyptian judge released two Al Jazeera English journalists, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy, on bail Thursday pending their retrial.

The retrial was ordered last month after Egypt’s top appeals court overturned a lower court’s verdict that had found Mohamed and Fahmy guilty of spreading false news to help the terrorist group Muslim Brotherhood, the BBC reports.

Mohamed and Fahmy had been arrested in December 2013 and charged in June 2014 after an internationally condemned trial. Before the retrial, they had been sentenced to seven years, with Mohamed receiving an additional three years.

Fahmy, who holds Canadian citizenship, has relinquished his dual Egyptian citizenship to qualify for deportation under a presidential decree that allows foreigners on trial to return to their home country. Mohamed does not hold a foreign passport.

Mohamed tweeted news of his freedom while the fiance of Fahmy was photographed expressing her joy.

An Al Jazeera spokesman said in a statement following the announcement:

Bail is a small step in the right direction, and allows Baher and Mohamed to spend time with their families after 411 days apart. The focus though is still on the court reaching the correct verdict at the next hearing [on Feb. 23] by dismissing this absurd case and releasing both these fine journalists unconditionally.

The order arrives two weeks after the release of Australian Peter Greste, an Al Jazeera journalist who had been imprisoned in Egypt for 400 days. Greste, who was also to be retried, was deported on Feb. 1 and has returned to his home in Australia.

[BBC]

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