Fr. Royce Morcos, official spokesman for the Alexandria Orthodox Church, said Egyptian Copts who travel to Israel over the Easter holiday would be punished.

Morcos’s statement came after Coptic Pope Tawadros II told the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm on Saturday that he would take the same approach as a predecessor who forbade Copts from traveling to Jerusalem without Muslims.

Around 305 Copts left Cairo for Israel over the past couple of days.

It is estimated that thousands of Egyptian Christians plan to spend the holy week in Jerusalem, according to a source from one of the travel companies quoted by the independent Arab news website Elaph on Sunday.

The travel source said this occurs every year at this time, pointing out that Egyptian airlines had raised the number of flights to Israel from four to 12 a week. The source added, however, that some Copts end up staying in Israel.

Seperately, an Egyptian military source told the paper that the army had completed almost half of a stone wall meant to secure the southern entrance of the Suez Canal from terrorist attacks.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton announced at the end of her visit to Egypt that EU observers would be sent for the upcoming presidential elections, the Spanish daily El Mundo reported on Friday.

Ashton had a working dinner Friday night with Amr Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister and Arab League secretary- general mentioned as a possible senior official in a government expected to be set up by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the presumed victor.

According to the Spanish EU envoy to the region, Bernardino Leon, who attended the dinner, Ashton demonstrated confidence that Egypt was capable of organizing successful and transparent elections.

It is noteworthy that Ashton had planned to meet with all the main presidential candidates, but in the end met only with Sisi.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger