Egypt: ISIS claims attack on monastery; Israel remains alert

ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack on Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai, the latest Islamic attack on Christians in Egypt.

The Islamic State (ISIS) terror group has claimed responsibility for an attack on an Egyptian police checkpoint near the famed Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai late Tuesday which killed one policeman and wounded four others.

The terrorists opened fire from an elevated hilltop overlooking the police checkpoint just outside the monastery, which is located in a remote desert and mountainous area in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula.

After an exchange of gunfire, the terrorists fled the scene, and some of them were wounded in the shootout.

The ISIS-affiliated Amaq news agency announced that the group’s terrorists carried out the attack on Saint Catherine.

This is the first time the ISIS has attacked a monastery.

It comes shortly before a planned visit by the Vatican Pope Francis to Egypt next week, and a week after two attacks on Egyptian churches which claimed the lives of dozens.

The attack on the monastery, built in the 6th century and a popular site for tourists visiting the Red Sea resorts along Sinai’s southern coast, comes just over a week after suicide bombers attacked two churches in the Nile Delta city of Tanta and the coastal city of Alexandria, killing 45 people on Palm Sunday.

Egypt’s Sinai-based ISIS affiliate claimed responsibility for those attacks.

ISIS has vowed more attacks against Christians in Egypt, who make up 10 percent of the country’s population of over 90 million people.

The Palm Sunday attack prompted President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to declare a three-month state of emergency and deploy armed forces to help police in guarding vital installations, including churches across the country.

A state of emergency already in place in northern Sinai has failed to halt near-daily attacks against police and security forces by ISIS in the volatile area. The terror group has lately stepped up its attacks, moving its activities from Sinai to other parts of Egypt and is increasingly using sophisticated tactics.

Egypt’s Copts, the Middle East’s largest Christian community, have also long complained of suffering discrimination, as well as outright attacks, at the hands of the country’s majority Muslim population.

More Attacks Feared

The US issued a travel warning on Wednesday, advising its nationals in Egypt to stay away from places of worship for the next two weeks and to avoid crowds as long as they remain in the country.

In the meantime, Israel decided on Wednesday  to keep its border crossing into the Sinai shut down, and the Taba crossing will remain closed for Israelis seeking to enter Sinai. The decision was made following a security assessment by the counter-terror bureau, and will be reevaluated in coming days.

Ahead of the Passover holiday, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz ordered that the crossing be closed to Israelis traveling to Sinai, amid multiple imminent warnings that ISIS terrorists have planned to target Israeli tourists.

By: AP and World Israel News Staff