Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said that Israel has collaborated with Egypt in its Sinai operations, stressing that relations between the two countries have strengthened during his term in office.
During a televised interview – of which US news channel CBS News broadcast only excerpts – Al-Sisi said that “the relationship with Israel is the closest now compared with previous Egyptian administrations and it includes cooperation in various fields”.
Al-Sisi added that the Egyptian army is cooperating with its Israeli counterpart “to confront terrorism in the Sinai,” which borders Israel in Egypt’s northeast.
For four years, the Egyptian army has been waging military operations in the Sinai. It alleges its aim is to fight terrorist groups, most notably the “Sinai Province” group which announced its allegiance to Daesh in late 2014. However, organisations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) have claimed that “fighting in Sinai has been marred by widespread government abuses including secret detentions, extrajudicial executions, and military trials of civilians”.
On other topics, CBS News’ website said that Al-Sisi had refrained from answering a question about his responsibility for the dispersal of the “Rabaa Square” sit-in, saying only that: “There were thousands of militants in the sit-in for more than 40 days. We have tried by all peaceful means to disperse them.”
On 14 August 2013, the Egyptian army and police force forcibly dispersed two pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-ins – Egypt’s first elected civilian president – in the Nahda square, west of Egyptian capital Cairo, and Rabaa Square, east of the capital.
The sit-in dispersal resulted in the killing of 632 people, including eight policemen, according to the National Council for Human Rights in Egypt (NCHR), while local and international rights organisations said that the number of victims exceeded 1,000.
When asked about the validity of human rights reports that 60,000 political prisoners had been detained in Egypt, Al-Sisi replied: “I do not know where they got this number. There are no political prisoners in Egypt. When there is a minority which tries to impose its extremist ideology, we have to intervene regardless of their numbers.”
CBS News added that the Egyptian ambassador to Washington, Yasser Reda, asked the channel not to broadcast the interview, but it confirmed the full broadcast will go ahead on Sunday.