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Sisi says he rejected plan to evacuate North Sinai to combat terrorism

Mahmoud Aziz , Wednesday 1 Mar 2017
Egyptian Army
File photo: Egypt army vehicles during counter-insurgency operation in North Sinai (Reuters)
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Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Tuesday that he had rejected an earlier plan to evacuate North Sinai of its residents to better combat Jihadists in the area. 
 
"Forty months ago, I received a plan to evacuate the entire North Sinai region to combat terrorism. My answer was 'no,' let the people live their lives and we will act like a surgeon who uses his scalpel to extract the tumor without harming the rest of the body," the president said on Tuesday at the Presidential Leadership Program for youth. 
 
El-Sisi's comments come as dozens of Christians have fled North Sinai over the past few days over attacks against Copts in the governorate.
 
Three Christians were killed last week in El-Arish city, bringing the number of Christians killed in terror attacks in North Sinai to seven in the last month.
 
El-Sisi asserts that these latest attacks aim at spreading the idea that the state is failing to protect "a primary element" of the Egyptian nation.
 
"These incidents and acts of terror target the unity of the Egyptian people more than anything," El-Sisi said. 
 
On Tuesday,  a spokesperson for the Coptic Orthodox Church said that 143 Christian families have fled North Sinai to Ismailia so far.
 
Last week, the Islamic State militant group called on its supporters to attack Christians across the country in a video where it claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a church in Cairo in December.
 
Several days after the video was released, three Christians were murdered in El-Arish.
 
Islamic State-affiliated militants have claimed reponsibility for several of the attacks.
 
Christians are estimated to make up around 10 percent of Egypt’s population.
 
The Egyptian government has been battling an Islamist insurgency in North Sinai that intensified after the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
 
A state of emergency has been imposed in some regions of North Sinai in August 2013, and has since been continuously extended for three months at a time.
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