Christian families who fled North Sinai's Al-Arish arrive Ismailia governorate (Photo: Reuters)
The number of Copts who have fled North Sinai to the city of Ismailiya after a recent spate of killings of Christians by Islamist militants has risen to 143 families, a spokesperson for the Coptic Orthodox Church announced on Tuesday.
In an official statement, the Church said the families included 546 members, adding that Ismailiya’s Anglican church was providing support and housing for 54 families, or 146 individuals.
The Church added that the Anglican Church was meeting the daily needs of the 89 other families, which the Egyptian government has taken responsibility for housing in the governorate.
The number announced by the Church is the most recent official estimate of the families that have fled to Ismailiya, and does not include other families who were provided shelter by the government in four other governorates, the statement read.
On Sunday, a report from the Cabinet read that a total 118 Coptic families had fled North Sinai. Ninety-six of those were given shelter in neighbouring Ismailiya, eight in Qalioubiya, 12 in Assiut, and two in Cairo.
The recent series of killings in North Sinai came after the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State militant group called on its supporters to attack Christians across the country, in a video in which 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 Arish, bringing the number of Christians killed in North Sinai in the last month to seven.
Several of the killings were claimed by Islamic State-affiliated militants.
Christians are estimated to make up around 10 percent of Egypt’s population.
Sectarian violence against Christians in Egypt is not uncommon; local human rights watchdog the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights reported in August 2016 that in the first eight months of 2016 ten incidents of sectarian violence had taken place in the governorate of Minya, an area of Upper Egyptian with a high proportion of Christian residents.
On Tuesday, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said that his government is providing all possible help to residents of Arish, who he said were being targeted as part of a “cowardly plot by evil people” designed to undermine national unity and confidence in the state.