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Sisi warns of 'destabilisation attempts' ahead of planned Sinai Liberation Day protests

Ahram Online , Sunday 24 Apr 2016
A handout picture released by the Egyptian Presidency on April 24, 2016 shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi delivering a speech in Cairo during the thirty-fourth anniversary of Sinai liberation (Egyptian Presidency)
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Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi warned of what he labelled as attempts to shake the country's security and stability on Sunday, one day ahead of Sinai Liberation Day, which has been set by activists as a date for protests over the recent Saudi island deal.

"I sincerely assure everyone that the Armed Forces… and all patriotic Egyptian institutions are aware of and appreciate the importance of protecting [Egypt's] land," the former army chief said in a televised speech.

Sinai Liberation Day, 25 April, marks the 1982 withdrawal of Israeli occupation forces from the Sinai Peninsula.

"Egypt appreciates the sacrifices of its brave sons from the Armed Forces and the police, who stand together to purge Sinai of terrorism and extremism," he said, referring to the army's ongoing fight against an Islamist insurgency in North Sinai over the past decade.

A government decision this month to cede control to Saudi Arabia of the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir, near South Sinai, sparked protests on 15 April, with thousands of demonstrators protesting near Cairo's press syndicate.

The island deal has not yet been approved by parliament.

El-Sisi, who was elected president in 2014 following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi one year earlier, insisted that not a single inch of Egyptian land was given up.

The 15 April demonstrations ended with calls of renewal on Monday to call for the reversal of the decision.

"We have exerted a lot of effort to achieve security and stability," El-Sisi said. "There are people who look to shake this stability."

"We have built up the state institutions and we have an elected parliament… we have to ensure the permanence of these institutions."

Though the focal point of the latest protests, the largest the country has seen in months, was sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir, there were chants calling for the downfall of El-Sisi's regime.

Several thousand protesters expressed dissatisfaction with his rule on more than one level, including the imprisonment of what they describe as political detainees.

In the days leading up to Sinai Liberation Day, a vast security campaign has seen activists arrested and ordered detained as well as a heavy security presence in the street.

"All attempts to destabilise state institutions will not succeed," El-Sisi stressed, after warning against calls that instigate "doubt and depression" in state decisions.

El-Sisi also referred to a previously revealed plan to develop Sinai, which he says will lead an economic turnaround in the peninsula and provide job opportunities for locals as well as better infrastructure.

North Sinai is widely seen as one of the most underdeveloped areas of the country.

Additionally, El-Sisi commissioned the government to increase supplies of subsidised basic commodities into the local markets to compensate for food price hikes caused by the fluctuating price of the US dollar over recent months.

He also assigned the Armed Forces to distribute two million staples in poor areas nationwide.

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