Egypt pleas for help after deadly Sinai attacks

The attacks also prompted Cairo to postpone Gaza talks due to Egypt's closure of the Rafah border crossing

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Egypt's foreign minister will contact ambassadors posted in the country to request additional security support two days after some of the worst anti-state violence claimed the lives of at least 33 soldiers.

The soldiers were killed during an attack on a checkpoint on Friday in the Sinai Peninsula bordering Israel and Gaza. The assault bore the marks of attacks claimed by Egypt's most active militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.

Infographic: Death in Sinai

Infographic: Death in Sinai
Infographic: Death in Sinai

In an e-mailed statement on Sunday, the foreign ministry called for support from the international community for "firm, decisive action by the government" to confront militants.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri was quoted by the state MENA news agency as saying he would reach out to foreign diplomats in Cairo to appeal for more support "politically and economically".

Shukri, who left Cairo on Sunday for a two-day visit to Britain where he will discuss security in Libya, did not specify which countries he would tap or what help he would request.

The European Union, and the U.S. and British governments condemned the attacks on Friday and pledged their support.

The government responded to Friday's attacks swiftly, declaring a three-month state of emergency in parts of North Sinai, where the attacks happened.

Gaza talks postponed

Israeli-Palestinian talks on a lasting Gaza truce are to resume after mid-November, instead of Monday as initially planned, the chief Palestinian negotiator Azzam al-Ahmad told AFP Sunday.

The announcement came after other Palestinian officials said the talks had been postponed due to Egypt's closure of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip.

Egypt closed Rafah, the only crossing into Gaza not controlled by Israel, after the latest Sinai attack.

"The indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians have been postponed until the second half of November," Ahmad told AFP from Cairo.

There was no immediate confirmation from Israel.

Earlier, Hamas official Khalil al-Haya told his Islamist movement's television that Palestinian delegates cannot leave Gaza since Egypt has closed the Rafah crossing.

Last week, Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuk said indirect talks with Israeli negotiators for a durable ceasefire in Gaza would resume on Monday.

The talks are aimed at building on an August 26 ceasefire that ended a devastating 50-day summer war between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip.

Sinai terrorist attacks

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Saturday the military would respond with measures in the border area where a buffer zone is likely to be expanded to pursue militants and destroy tunnels used to smuggle weapons and fighters.

Egypt's cabinet on Saturday also proposed a new measure that would allow the use of military courts to try civilians accused of offences such as blocking roads or attacking public property.

Sisi was elected in May after toppling President Mohammed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood last year following mass protests. He came into office promising to end the Islamist militant insurgency in Sinai and repair an economy wrecked by political upheaval.

He said on Saturday that Egypt faces "an existential battle" from the Islamist insurgency that has raged since Mursi's ouster. His government has also cracked down on the Brotherhood, which has been declared a terrorist organization.

The Brotherhood insists it is peaceful and denies links to attacks over the past year. It condemned Friday's attack as a massacre, but blamed Sisi for security failings.

Former army chief Sisi has warned that jihadist activity in the Sinai and the spillover of radical militants from chaotic Libya are major security threats to Egypt.

(with AFP and Reuters)

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