Egypt Delays Opening Gaza Border Crossing After Sinai Mosque Attack Kills 305

The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza was to reopen for three days before a suspected ISIS bombing derailed the plan

A Palestinian woman shouts as people wait to cross at Gaza's Rafah border crossing with Egypt on November 20, 2017.
SAID KHATIB/AFP

Egypt has delayed the opening of the Egypt-Gaza Rafah border crossing due to security concerns after a North Sinai attack on a mosque killed 235 people, MENA state news agency said on Friday, citing the Palestinian embassy in Cairo.

The border was to reopen for three days to allow travel from both sides, the agency said.

>> Update: Egypt strikes ISIS after deadliest attack on civilians in country's modern history>>

Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah agreed to hand over responsibility for the Rafah crossing to a unity government as part of a deal brokered by Cairo last month. 

Militants attacked a crowded mosque during Friday prayers in the Sinai Peninsula, setting off explosives, spraying worshippers with gunfire and killing at least 235 people in the deadliest ever attack by Islamic extremists in Egypt.

To really understand the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz

The attack targeted a mosque frequented by Sufis, members of Islam's mystical movement, in the north Sinai town of Bir al-Abd. Islamic militants, including the local affiliate of the Islamic State group, consider Sufis heretics because of their less literal interpretations of the faith.

The startling bloodshed, which also wounded at least 109, was the latest sign of how more than three years of fighting in Sinai has been unable to crush an insurgency waged by the ISIS affiliate. Seeking to spread the violence, the militants the past year have carried out deadly bombings on churches in the capital, Cairo, and other cities, killing dozens of Christians. The affiliate also is believed to have been behind the 2016 downing of a Russian passenger jet that killed 226 people.

But this was the first major militant attack on a Muslim mosque, and it eclipsed any past attacks of its kind, even dating back to a previous Islamic militant insurgency in the 1990s.