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Palestinians hold sit-in in Ramallah in solidarity with Egyptians following attacks

April 12, 2017 7:04 P.M. (Updated: April 12, 2017 7:05 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Palestinians organized a sit-in on Wednesday in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah in front of the Egyptian embassy in solidarity with Egyptian Christians, following bomb attacks that targeted two Coptic churches on Sunday, leaving at least 46 killed and more than 100 injured during Palm Sunday celebrations.

Participants held Palestinian and Egyptian flags and held signs condemning terrorism. The coordinator of the sit-in, Habis al-Shrouf, said that the action was held in solidarity with Egyptian people, as well as to voice their condemnation of “all types of terrorism and extremism that threaten Egypt and its security.”

Al-Shrouf also stressed the relationship between Palestine and Egypt, saying that Egypt was known for its support of the Palestinian cause.

Egyptian Deputy Ambassador to Palestine Ahmad Hafith said that Palestinian solidarity with Egypt was expected given the “strong relations between the two countries,” adding that Egypt would continue to take all measures to “fight terrorism and end it from its roots.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sent a letter to Pope Francis on Wednesday, applauding him for committing to his upcoming trip to Egypt, despite the attacks.

"We hope that you will be able to bring a message of hope to the Egyptian people, and to all the Arab and African peoples: a message of unity, equality and coexistence," Abbas said, adding that the pope's visit to Egypt would "provide Egypt, and the rest of our region, with a strong message of hope and love."

Seventeen people were killed in an explosion outside Saint Mark's Cathedral in the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria, which was reportedly carried out by a suicide bomber. The head of Egypt’s Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, had been attending mass inside, though he was left unharmed, according to the Egyptian state media.

An earlier blast at the Saint George Church in the city of Tanta, located between Alexandria and Cairo, left 29 dead.

The so-called Islamic State reportedly claimed responsibility for both attacks via its Amaq press agency.

Abbas’ adviser for religious affairs Mahmoud al-Habbash denounced the attacks on Sunday, which he described as a "criminal act incompatible with the bases of our true religion (Islam)."

Al-Habbash said the attacks sought to stoke unrest and sectarianism between Muslims and Christians in Arab communities, which he said have coexisted throughout the ages.

The Hamas movement also condemned the bombings, and described the attacks as a "crime."

Spokesman Fawzi Barhum said that "Hamas wishes safety, security, stability, and prosperity for Egypt and its people."

The attacks came on Palm Sunday, a Christian holiday marking the entrance of Jesus to the city of Jerusalem.

The incidents also came just weeks before Pope Francis' planned visit to Egypt.

They were the latest in a series of assaults on Egypt's Coptic Christian minority, which makes up around 10 percent of the country's 92 million citizens.

A spate of attacks in Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsula, including the murder of a Copt in the city of al-Arish whose house was also burned, have led some Coptic families to flee their homes.

About 250 Christians took refuge in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya after the Islamic State released a video in February calling for attacks on the religious minority.

Fighting between Egyptian forces and local Islamic State affiliate the Sinai Province has escalated since Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi took power from Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.
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