02/22/2017 Washington, D.C.
(International Christian Concern
) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that this morning, February 22, 2017, the bodies of two Coptic Christian men were found behind a school in El-Arish, Egypt. Saad Hakim Hanna, 65 years old, was shot in the head, while his son, Medhat, 45 years old, seems to have been burned alive.
This brutal attack comes only days after an Islamic State affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula promised to eliminate the Christian minority, claiming that Egyptian Christians were the extremist group’s “favorite prey.”
According to Fr. Youssef Sobhy, a priest at the Mar Girgis Coptic Orthodox Church in El-Arish, three masked men attacked Saad and Medhat at their home at 10:00 p.m. last night. “The men knocked at the door of the home of the Christians and Medhat opened the door,” Fr. Sobhy told ICC. “The men shot his old father, Saad Hanna, in the head and then they burnt the home.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first attack of its kind in El-Arish.
On January 30, a Coptic Christian trader named Wael Youssed Meland was shot and killed by masked men in his grocery shop in El-Arish. The assailants then helped themselves to soda and chips in front of Meland’s wife and son.
On February 12, a Coptic veterinarian named Bahgat William Zkhar was shot in his car just south of El-Arish, Egypt. One day later, another Copt, Adel Shawky, was shot in the head by masked men in the same district.
On February 16, a Coptic teacher named Gamal Tawfiq Gares was also shot by masked men in El-Arish.
“Two masked men approached us and asked my husband if he was Gamal,” Namea Gamil, Gares’ widow, told ICC. “My husband answered yes; one of them got out a gun from his clothes and shot my husband in the head.”
It seems that all of the victims were targeted by their assailants because of their religious identity. There is now a growing sense of panic among Christians in El-Arish that ISIS is following through on their promise to kill Egyptian Christians.
“Many [have] left and fled while those who find it difficult to leave have sent their children away to relative[s] out[side] of Arish,” one Christian resident of El-Arish told ICC. “My family and I want to leave, but we cannot do that because our livelihoods are here, our homes are here, and we have nowhere else to go.”
William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “We are deeply concerned for the developing situation in Egypt, especially in and around El-Arish. Christians cannot continue to live under such paralyzing conditions. The authorities must do more to protect vulnerable populations, particularly Christians, as they are being specifically targeted by militants. ICC calls on the al-Sisi administration to follow through on their promises to defend the Christian population of Egypt.”