Egypt’s Foreign Ministry has denied that Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Israeli attacks where children are killed are not acts of terror.
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According to the ministry’s spokesman late Monday, Shoukry was never asked about the killing of children and there was no reference to this issue. The spokesman said Arab media outlets twisted Shoukry’s words in an attempt to harm Egypt’s relations with the Palestinians, which are strained by the government’s tensions with Hamas and control of the Rafah crossing with Gaza.
On Sunday, the Arabic-language newspaper Al-Arabi al-Jadid, which is published in London and is identified with Qatar, reported that Shoukry had been asked whether the killing of Palestinian children by Israel constituted terrorism.
“The act cannot be defined as terror without international agreement on the precise definition of terror,” Shoukry was quoted as saying. “Palestine is in our hearts and the Egyptian people will also take an interest in this issue and try to help to achieve an agreement [with Israel]. But the subject is complicated due to the extent of diplomatic will in Israel, the will of the international community and the resilience of the Palestinians.”
According to the Qatari newspaper, the ministry’s website published a story on the meeting with students without mentioning the question about killing Palestinian children. Observers on social networks and anti-government websites said Shoukry’s alleged statement was another sign of a rapprochement between Egypt and Israel, particularly after Shoukry’s meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem last month.
In response to the minister’s alleged statement, Qatar-based Hamas spokesman Husam Badran tweeted: “Anyone who doesn’t view the crimes of the occupation as terrorism is physically blind and suffers from moral decline and a lack of direction.”
Another issue that could worsen tensions between Hamas and Egypt is the publication of photos of prisoners in a jail run by Egyptian intelligence. According to Al Jazeera, the photos show two of the four Hamas members who were kidnapped about a year ago and disappeared after crossing from Gaza into Egypt at Rafah.
Cairo denies any connection to the disappearance and says the four were kidnapped by terror groups, but Hamas says they are being held by Egyptian intelligence.