|Photo by: Reuters/ BAZ RATNER|
Egyptians lift siege on peacekeeper base at Israeli border
By OREN KESSLER AND REUTERS
Brotherhood leaders praise late Coptic pope for refusing to let pilgrims visit "occupied Jerusalem."
Egyptians who had surrounded the base of an international peacekeeping force in
the Sinai Peninsula lifted their blockade on Wednesday after negotiations with
the Egyptian authorities, a security source said.
The Egyptians from the
town of Rafah near the border with the Gaza Strip had blocked access to the base
– home to soldiers monitoring the Israeli- Egyptian border – to pressure the
government to release two of their relatives from prison.
agreed to reopen the investigation into kidnapping charges brought against the
pair, the source said.
The protesters, some of them armed, had blocked
access to the base since Tuesday afternoon, using burning tires and vehicles. It
was the second time the base had been blockaded in a week. An eight-day siege by
armed Beduin, also demanding the release of relatives, was lifted last
The base belongs to the multinational force that oversees
observance of Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel through patrols of their heavily
Peacekeeping officials were not immediately available
State control has weakened in the Sinai Peninsula since
Hosni Mubarak was ousted from the presidency last year.
have ushered in an Islamist-dominated parliament, and the post-Mubarak era has
seen worsening relations between Egypt’s Muslim majority and estimated 10
million Coptic Christians.
This week the Muslim Brotherhood – whose
Freedom and Justice Party holds about 40 percent of parliamentary seats – seized
the opportunity of the Coptic pope’s death on Saturday to present an image of
tolerance toward Christians.
Brotherhood chief Mohamed Badie on Tuesday
praised the late patriarch, Shenouda III, as a “true patriot.”
Shenouda’s true patriotism was evident in many situations over his long life,”
Badie said, according to the Brotherhood website Ikhwanweb.
reserved special praise for Shenouda’s prohibition on Coptic pilgrimage to
Christian holy sites in Israel. “I remember him saying: ‘We will not visit the
Church of the Resurrection [Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre] except
with our Muslim brothers when they visit al-Aksa Mosque,’” he said.
remarks came a day after Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a cleric who is the Brotherhood’s
chief ideologue, lauded Shenouda for refusing to let his followers visit
“occupied” Jerusalem and for “respecting” Shari’a law.
“We share with our
Coptic brothers their huge grief, and we wish them all the best in their new
lives and the choosing of a new Pope, cooperating with their fellow Egyptian
brothers to build together a new free, democratic, pious Egypt,” Qaradawi said,
according to the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper.
“We hope that Muslims and
Christians together make a new life based on solidarity, love, forgiveness,
peace, cooperation on righteousness, piety, truth and patience,” he said.