Egypt’s El Sisi replaces spy chief

Mr El Tohamy had been a consistent advocate of the fierce security crackdown on Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood that has seen hundreds killed and thousands jailed.
Palestinians await permission to enter Egypt as they gather inside the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip. Said Khatib / AFP
Palestinians await permission to enter Egypt as they gather inside the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip. Said Khatib / AFP

CAIRO // President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on Sunday removed Egypt’s powerful intelligence chief who took office just days after the removal of the Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

General Mohamed Farid El Tohamy was replaced by his deputy General Khaled Mahmoud Fuad Fawzy, the president’s office said.

No reason was given for his departure.

Mr El Tohamy had been a consistent advocate of the fierce security crackdown on Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood that has seen hundreds killed and thousands jailed.

“The president issued an order sending Gen Tohamy, the head of general intelligence, into retirement,” the statement said, adding that he had been given one of the state’s highest awards – the Order of the Republic of the first degree – “in recognition of his efforts throughout his career”.

Gen Fawzy takes charge of Egypt’s intelligence operations from Sunday.

Former army general Sameh Seif Al Yazal, an expert on military strategy who has close ties with the security services, said that Mr El Tohamy, 67, had been unwell and had “spent the last two months in hospital”.

Mr El Tohamy was appointed spy chief after the Mr Morsi was ousted on July 3, 2013 by then army chief Mr El Sisi.

Mr Morsi’s departure came after mass street protests against the Islamist president’s turbulent one-year rule.

Also on Sunday, Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing for passengers from the Gaza Strip for the first time in almost two months.

Maher Abu Sabha, the Hamas-appointed director of crossings, said Rafah would open for two days to allow Gazans with serious illnesses to travel to Egypt and beyond for treatment and to allow foreign nationals and students to travel.

Egypt shut the crossing on October 25 after Islamist militants in the Sinai region killed 33 members of its security forces in some of the worst anti-state violence since Mr Morsi was toppled.

Since then, Cairo has opened the crossing only twice to allow thousands of Palestinians stranded in Egypt and beyond to return to Gaza, which is dominated by the Islamist Hamas faction.

An Egyptian official, citing “security reasons”, said there was no decision yet to allow the permanent and full opening of the crossing as was the case before October 25.

Rafah is the only major crossing between impoverished Gaza – home to 1.8 million Palestinians – and the outside world that does not border Israel, which blockades the strip and allows passage mainly on humanitarian grounds.

Hamas has long had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was ousted from power in Egypt when Mr Morsi was overthrown, but its relations with the current Egyptian government are tense.

Hamas’s leaders have distanced themselves from violence in Egypt and in Sinai and say they have no armed presence in areas outside Palestinian boundaries.

Some children stood by the fence, while others sat or slept over luggage that piled up outside the gate as their families awaited to pass.

“I have been waiting for three months to leave, this is very bad,” said Mnwar Shaath, 58, a Palestinian woman clad in a long black robe who lives in Saudi Arabia and came to visit family in Gaza.

“I am sick and I was afraid I may die here, away from my children, I want to go back and die among them,” she said.

* Agence France-Presse and Reuters

Published: December 21, 2014 04:00 AM

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