Egypt’s First Post-Mubarak Ruler, Tantawi Dies At 85

Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, who died on September 21, 2021 at the age of 85, headed the military junta that ruled Egypt in the aftermath of Hosni Mubarak’s ouster before being sacked by the country’s first freely elected leader. Khaled DESOUKI / AFP

 

Egypt’s Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, who headed the military junta that ruled after president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in the Arab Spring protests, has died at age 85, state media and a military official said Tuesday. 

After his stint as Egypt’s de facto leader, he was soon sacked by the country’s first freely elected president, the Islamist Mohamed Morsi, and spent his remaining years largely out of public view.

A veteran of Egypt’s wars and politics, Field Marshal Tantawi had long served as Mubarak’s defence minister and as chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

He became the acting head of state of the Arab world’s most populous country after an 18-day popular uprising during the region’s “Arab Spring” protests ended Mubarak’s rule in early 2011.

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Tantawi “died today, Tuesday, after giving a lot” to his country, the government newspaper Akhbar al-Youm said in an online report confirmed to AFP by a military official speaking on condition of anonymity.

Like all Egyptian leaders from the overthrow of the monarchy in 1952 to the 2012 election of Morsi, Tantawi came from military ranks.

Born in 1935, and of Nubian origin, Tantawi began his career as an infantryman in 1956. He served during the 1956 Suez Crisis and in the 1967 and 1973 Middle East wars against Israel.

After taking charge of the country, his junta quickly said Egypt would stay “committed” to its regional and international treaties, implicitly confirming that its landmark 1979 peace treaty with Israel would remain intact.

In 1991, Tantawi was on the side of the US-led coalition in the first Gulf War after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

He served as Egypt’s minister of defence and military production for 21 years and became the army chief in 1995.

Despite being a close associate of Mubarak, Tantawi relented to public pressure and put the ex-president on trial on charges of inciting the killing of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 uprising.

 

‘Charming But Change-Resistant’

Tantawi was often perceived as a possible presidential candidate after Mubarak’s ouster, but his age and reported ill health counted against him.

Those who knew him felt he would likely have failed to meet the surging democratic aspirations of Egyptians after Mubarak’s ouster.

A March 2008 US diplomatic cable published on activist website WikiLeaks described Tantawi as “charming and courtly” but also “aged and change-resistant”.

“He and Mubarak are focused on regime stability and maintaining the status quo through the end of their time. They simply do not have the energy, inclination, or world view to do anything differently,” the cable warned.

The army was widely praised for allowing anti-Mubarak protests during the uprising, and the junta vowed to pave the way “to an elected civil authority to build a free democratic state”.

Demonstrators had often hailed the armed forces as a unifying national force — less brutal and corrupt than the interior ministry police or pro-Mubarak thugs who attacked their marches.

But their joy soon turned into anger, accusing the junta of dragging its feet in launching democratic reforms.

Morsi, less than two months after his election as Egypt’s leader in June 2012, sacked Tantawi and, fatefully, replaced him with then military intelligence chief, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Sisi went on to oust Morsi after street protests against the Islamist’s single year of divisive rule, and himself became president in 2014.

After his sacking, Tantawi largely kept a low profile, although he was seen attending the inauguration of the “new Suez Canal” in 2015.

AFP

Egypt Name Ex-Real Madrid Boss Queiroz As New Coach

Queiroz Plays Up Iran Unity Ahead Of Morocco Clash
Iran’s coach Carlos Queiroz (C) leads a training session at Saint Petersburg Stadium on June 14, 2018, ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup football game Iran vs Morocco. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Carlos Queiroz was appointed Wednesday as Egypt’s new coach following the sacking of Hossam El-Badry after an unconvincing start to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

The Egyptian football federation said Queiroz, a former Manchester United assistant and Real Madrid manager, would be supported by Diaa El-Sayed and long-time former national team goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary on his coaching staff.

It is the latest in a long line of international jobs for the 68-year-old Queiroz, who took Portugal to the 2010 World Cup. He also coached Iran at the 2014 and 2018 tournaments.

The Portuguese will take over from El-Badry, who was dismissed Monday in the wake of a 1-1 draw in Gabon.

Egypt’s sluggish performance against Gabon on Sunday, in which they needed a 90th-minute equaliser to rescue a point, and a laboured 1-0 win against Angola in their opening World Cup qualifier, had prompted furious criticism from disappointed fans on social media.

Egypt are second behind Libya in their group with four points from two games. They face a crucial doubleheader against the Libyans in October, with only the group winners advancing to the final qualifying round.

Queiroz is expected to arrive in Cairo next week. He left his role as Colombia coach late last year after a 6-1 defeat by Ecuador.

A former assistant to Alex Ferguson at United, Queiroz has also previously had spells in charge of South Africa and United Arab Emirates.

AFP

Egypt Sack Coach After World Cup Qualifier Draw With Gabon

File photo: Egypt’s team players (from top left) Egypt’s defender Ali Gabr, Egypt’s goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy, Egypt’s forward Mahmoud ‘Trezeguet’ Hassan, Egypt’s defender Ahmed Hegazi, Egypt’s forward Marwan Mohsen, Egypt’s defender Ahmed Fathi, Egypt’s midfielder Mohamed Elneny, Egypt’s defender Mohamed Abdel-Shafy, Egypt’s midfielder Tarek Hamed, Egypt’s midfielder Abdallah Said and Egypt’s forward Mohamed Salah pose before the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Russia and Egypt at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg on June 19, 2018. Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

 

Egypt’s Football Association on Monday sacked national coach Hossam al-Badry a day after the Pharaohs drew with minnows Gabon in a 2022 World Cup qualifier.

“The association decided in an emergency meeting …to thank the coaching and technical staff for their services with the national squad,” the EFA said in a short statement on its social media accounts.

A new coach is expected to be named within 48 hours, the EFA added.

Egypt’s sluggish performance against Gabon on Sunday, in which they needed a 90th minute equaliser to rescue a point, and a laboured 1-0 win against Angola in their previous World Cup qualifier, had prompted furious criticism from disappointed fans on social media.

The Pharaohs’ star Mohamed Salah lined up for the Gabon match after missing the Angola game as his club Liverpool refused to release him because the country is on the British government’s Covid-19 red list of countries and the forward would have been forced to quarantine on his return to England.

Badry, who had been in the job for two years, said he had refused to tender his resignation under pressure from the EFA, forcing them to sack him.

The coach noted the Pharaohs were still top of their World Cup qualifying group with four points and that he had guided them to qualification for next year’s African Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

AFP

Bus Crash On Egypt Highway Kills 12 Near Suez

egypt, head of journalists' union, jail
Egypt flag.

 

Twelve people were killed on an Egyptian highway early Sunday when their bus overturned on their return from the popular Red Sea resort Sharm El-Sheikh, medical and security sources said.

Thirty-four other passengers were injured and transported to the port town of Suez for treatment, the medical source added.

No specific cause for the accident about 110 kilometres (70 miles) east of the capital Cairo was immediately given by authorities.

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Deadly road accidents due to driver error and dilapidated infrastructure are common in Egypt. Some 7,000 people were killed last year in road accidents, according to official figures.

AFP

Egypt Plans To Make One Billion Doses Of Sinovac Vaccine In A Year

Laboratory workers fill boxes with vials of China’s Sinovac vaccine against the coronavirus, produced by the Egyptian company VACSERA, in the capital Cairo, on September 1, 2021. PHOTO: Khaled DESOUKI / AFP

 

Egypt said Wednesday it plans to manufacture one billion doses a year of China’s Sinovac vaccine, claiming it would become the Middle East and Africa’s “biggest vaccine producer”.

Under the deal with the Chinese pharmaceutical company, a factory in Cairo will produce more than 200 million doses per year to cover “national needs”, Health Minister Hala Zayed told a press conference.

A second factory will produce three million doses per day, “or around a billion a year”, with a view to exporting the vaccine for Covid-19 and responding to demand in Africa, Zayed added.

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The move would make Egypt “the biggest vaccine producer in the Middle East and Africa”, an official statement said.

Heba Wali, the doctor in charge of the project, said the Egyptian drug authority had given its go-ahead and that “one million doses have already been distributed in Egypt”.

Chinese experts had previously travelled to Egypt to inspect equipment and materials for producing the Sinovac vaccine at factories belonging to state firm Vacsera.

Egypt, with a population of over 100 million, has officially recorded more than 288,000 Covid-19 cases, including over 16,700 deaths.

Some 7.5 million Egyptians have had at least one vaccine dose.

AFP

Amnesty Demands Probe Into Egypt Army ‘Executions’ Video

 

 

Amnesty International called Thursday for an investigation after it said an Egyptian army video apparently showed soldiers carrying out “extrajudicial executions”, including shooting a sleeping man.

In the video, posted on Facebook on Sunday by the Egyptian army’s spokesman, the narrator announces the killing of 89 militants in North Sinai, with images of soldiers apparently firing in battle.

The video “shows a soldier shooting a person at close range while asleep in a makeshift tent”, as well as an “unarmed man pounded by bullets from above, as he is running in the desert”, Amnesty said.

Egyptian forces have for years fought an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, led mainly by the local branch of the Islamic State group.

“The Egyptian Public Prosecutor must urgently investigate what appear to be extrajudicial executions,” Amnesty said, calling for those responsible to face “justice in fair trials before civilian courts”.

Since February 2018, the authorities have been conducting a nationwide operation against Islamist militants, mainly focused on North Sinai and the country’s Western Desert.

Around 1060 suspected militants and dozens of security personnel have been killed in the Sinai, according to official figures. No independently-sourced death toll is available as North Sinai is off-limits to journalists.

The gruesome video, set to dramatic music, gave no time frame for the 89 militants it reported killed.

“The deeply disturbing footage in this Egyptian military propaganda video… offers a glimpse of the shocking crimes committed in the name of countering terrorism in Egypt,” Amnesty’s Philip Luther said in a statement.

Among the weapons in the video, Amnesty said it had identified an US-made M4 carbine rifle.

Amnesty said the “international community… must urgently halt the transfer of arms or military equipment where there is a clear risk that these may be used to commit human rights violations.”

Egypt Sentences 24 Muslim Brotherhood Members To Death

A file photo of the Egyptian national flag.
A file photo of the Egyptian national flag.

 

An Egyptian court on Thursday sentenced 24 Muslim Brotherhood members to death for the killing of police officers in two separate cases, a judicial source said.

The Damanhour Criminal Court, north of the capital Cairo, convicted the group of several crimes, including the alleged bombing of a bus transporting police officers in the coastal Beheira governorate in 2015.

The attack killed three policemen and wounded scores of others.

The other case, also comprised of Brotherhood members and tried by the same court, was over the killing of a policeman in 2014.

Eight of the 24 accused were tried in absentia.

Capital punishment for civilian convicts in Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, is carried out by hanging.

The verdicts can be appealed, the source added.

Egypt outlawed the Islamist group in 2013 following the military ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi.

Since leading the military takeover and becoming president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood, with thousands of its supporters jailed.

The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, calls for Islam to be at the heart of public life.

It established itself as the main opposition movement in Egypt despite decades of repression, and has inspired spinoff movements and political parties across the Muslim world.

But it remains banned in several countries including Egypt for its alleged links to terrorism.

Earlier this year, Amnesty International slammed Egypt’s “significant spike” in recorded executions, which saw a more than threefold rise to 107 last year, from 32 in 2019.

Defying Egypt And Sudan, Ethiopia Hits Second-Year Target For Filling Nile Mega-Dam

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 26, 2019, a worker goes down a construction ladder at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia. (Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP)

 

Ethiopia said Monday it had attained its second-year target for filling a mega-dam on the Blue Nile River that has stoked tensions with downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.

“The first filling already was done last year. The second one is already done today. So today or tomorrow, second filling will be announced,” an official told AFP, adding there is now enough water stored to begin producing energy.

Water Minister Seleshi Bekele later confirmed the milestone, which officials had earlier predicted would come in August.

In a post on Twitter, he attributed the accelerated timeline to “extreme rainfall” in the Blue Nile basin.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been at the centre of a regional dispute ever since Ethiopia broke ground on the project in 2011.

Egypt and Sudan view the dam as a threat because of their dependence on Nile waters, while Ethiopia deems it essential for its electrification and development.

Talks held under the auspices of the African Union (AU) have failed to yield a three-way agreement on the dam’s filling and operations, and Cairo and Khartoum have demanded Addis Ababa cease filling the massive reservoir until such a deal is reached.

But Ethiopian officials have argued that filling is a natural part of the dam’s construction process and cannot be stopped.

Energy generation

The UN Security Council met earlier this month to discuss the project, although Ethiopia later slammed the session as an “unhelpful” distraction from the AU-led process.

Egypt claims a historic right to the Nile dating from a 1929 treaty that gave it veto power over construction projects along the river.

A 1959 treaty boosted Egypt’s allocation to around 66 percent of the river’s flow, with 22 percent for Sudan.

Yet Ethiopia was not party to those treaties and does not see them as valid.

In 2010 Nile basin countries, excluding Egypt and Sudan, signed another deal, the Cooperative Framework Agreement, that allows projects on the river without Cairo’s agreement.

The Nile’s main tributaries, the Blue Nile and White Nile, converge in Khartoum before flowing north through Egypt to drain into the Mediterranean Sea.

The process of filling the GERD’s reservoir began last year, with Ethiopia announcing in July 2020 it had hit its target of 4.9 billion cubic metres.

The goal for this year’s rainy season — which had been announced before the first cycle was completed — was to add 13.5 billion cubic metres. The reservoir’s capacity is 74 billion.

With the second-year target hit, the dam can run the first two of its 13 turbines, Seleshi said Monday on Twitter.

“Intensive efforts are being made for the two turbines to generate energy,” Seleshi said, adding that “early generation” could be realised “in the next few months.”

‘National symbol’

The $4.2-billion dam is ultimately expected to produce more than 5,000 megawatts of electricity, making it Africa’s biggest hydroelectric dam and more than doubling Ethiopia’s electricity output.

Ethiopia had initially planned output of around 6,500 megawatts but later reduced its target.

The first two turbines should produce 750 megawatts of electricity, increasing national output by roughly 20 percent, said Addisu Lashitew of the Brookings Institution in Washington.

It is “a significant amount” for an economy that frequently faces power shortages and is sometimes hobbled by power rationing, he said.

The milestone would also have “political implications” for a country going through “a very difficult time” in no small part because of the eight-month-old war in its northern Tigray region, Addisu said.

“The dam is seen as a national symbol, a unifying symbol. It’s one of the very few things that bring together people from all walks of life in Ethiopia,” he said.

“Definitely the government will try to extract some political value from the second filling.”

AFP

Egypt Releases Megaship Impounded Over Suez Blockage

A photograph taken on April 7, 2021 shows the MSC Rifaya container ship arriving at the Rotterdam port, form the Suez Canal, following its blockage. (Photo by Robin UTRECHT / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT

 

Megaship the MV Ever Given, which blocked the Suez Canal for six days in March, weighed anchor Wednesday following a compensation deal between Egypt and the vessel’s Japanese owner after having been impounded for more than 100 days.

An AFP correspondent said the ship started to move north from the central canal city of Ismailia towards the Mediterranean, shortly after 11:30 am local time (0930 GMT).

The nearly 200,000-tonne container vessel became wedged across the canal during a sandstorm on March 23, blocking a vital artery from Asia to Europe that carries 10 percent of global maritime trade and pumps vital revenues into Egyptian state coffers.

After a round-the-clock salvage operation to dislodge it, Egypt seized the ship and demanded compensation from Japanese owners Shoei Kisen Kaisha for lost canal revenues, salvage costs and damage to the canal.

The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) announced Sunday that a final deal had been reached, without disclosing the amount of compensation to be paid.

In a statement, it said the ship would leave on Wednesday.

Cairo had initially demanded $916 million in compensation before slashing that to around $550 million, but the final amount has been the subject of tough negotiations.

The SCA announced last month that it had signed a non-disclosure agreement with the Japanese firm ahead of reaching a final deal.

SCA chairman Osama Rabie, in a televised interview on Sunday, hailed the deal.

“We maintained our rights and we kept good relations with our clients,” he said.

– Millions in revenues –

Cairo, which earns over $5 billion a year from the Suez, lost between $12 million and $15 million in revenues for each day the waterway was closed, according to the SCA.

The MV Ever Given’s grounding and the intensive salvage efforts needed to refloat it also resulted in significant damage to the canal.

In April, maritime data company Lloyd’s List said the blockage by the vessel, longer than four football fields, held up some $9.6 billion-worth of cargo each day it was stuck.

The Taiwanese-operated and Panama-flagged vessel was refloated on March 29, and tailbacks totalling 420 vessels at the northern and southern entrances to the canal were cleared in early April.

On Tuesday, the Ismailia Economic Court ruled the seized ship with its crew on board was being released following a request from the SCA.

According to tracking service MarineTraffic, the ship had been moored in the northern part of Great Bitter Lake.

Rabie said the MV Ever Given had suffered “no leakage” and was leaving after a signing ceremony.

He said Egypt would also receive a 75-tonne tugboat from Shoei Kisen Kaisha as part of the compensation package, and noted that the family of one rescue worker who died during the salvage operation would also be compensated.

“The Suez canal has always been a site of sacrifices since it was built,” he said.

– Canal expansion –

The Suez Canal earned Egypt just over $5.7 billion in the 2019/20 fiscal year, according to official figures — little changed from the $5.3 billion earned back in 2014.

Even with the grounding of the ship, Rabie said Sunday that canal revenues in the first half of the year had topped $3 billion.

But officials have been keen to avoid reputational damage from the incident, trumpeting Egyptian efforts in the salvage operation.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi swiftly pledged investment to avoid any repetition of the crisis, and in May approved a two-year project to widen and deepen the southern part of the waterway where the ship ran aground.

Sisi had overseen the $8 billion expansion of a northern section of the canal to much fanfare in 2014-15.

AFP

Ethiopia Begins Second Stage Of Filling Mega-Dam, Angering Egypt

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 26, 2019, a worker goes down a construction ladder at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia. (Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP)

 

Ethiopia says it has started the next phase of filling a controversial mega-dam on the Nile River, Egyptian authorities said Monday, raising tensions ahead of an upcoming UN Security Council on the issue.

Egypt said the move was “a violation of international laws and norms that regulate projects built on the shared basins of international rivers,” and had expressed its “firm rejection of this unilateral measure”, its irrigation ministry said in a statement late Monday.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is set to be Africa’s largest hydroelectric project when completed, is the source of an almost decade-long diplomatic stand-off between Addis Ababa and downstream nations Egypt and Sudan.

Ethiopia says the project is essential to its development, but Cairo and Khartoum fear it could restrict their citizens’ water access.

Both countries have been pushing Addis Ababa to ink a binding deal over the filling and operation of the dam, and have been urging the UN Security Council to take the matter up in recent weeks.

Thursday’s meeting was requested by Tunisia on Egypt and Sudan’s behalf, a diplomatic source told AFP.

But France’s ambassador to the UN said last week that the council itself can do little apart from bringing the sides together.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said in one note to the UN that negotiations are at an impasse, and accused Ethiopia of adopting “a policy of intransigence that undermined our collective endeavors to reach an agreement.”

Addis Ababa had previously announced it would proceed to the second stage of filling in July, with or without a deal.

– ‘Existential threat’ –
The Nile — which at some 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometres) is one of the longest rivers in the world — is an essential source of water and electricity for dozens of countries in East Africa.

Egypt, which depends on the Nile for about 97 percent of its irrigation and drinking water, sees the dam as an existential threat.

Sudan hopes the project will regulate annual flooding but fears its dams would be harmed without agreement on the Ethiopian operation.

The 145-metre (475-foot) mega-dam, on which construction began in 2011, has a capacity of 74 billion cubic metres.

Filling began last year, with Ethiopia announcing in July 2020 it had hit its target of 4.9 billion cubic metres — enough to test the dam’s first two turbines, an important milestone on the way towards actually producing energy.

The goal is to impound an additional 13.5 billion cubic metres this year.

Egypt and Sudan wanted a trilateral agreement on the dam’s operations to be reached before any filling began.

But Ethiopia says it is a natural part of the construction, and is thus impossible to postpone.

Last year Sudan said the process caused water shortages, including in the capital Khartoum, a claim Ethiopia disputed.

Sudan’s water minister Yasser Abbas warned in April that if Ethiopia went ahead with the second stage filling, Sudan “would file lawsuits against the Italian company constructing the dam and the Ethiopian government”.

He said the lawsuits would highlight that the “environmental and social impact, as well as the dangers of the dam”, have not been taken into adequate consideration.

Egypt Sentences TikTok Influencers Over ‘Human Trafficking’

A file photo of a court gavel.
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

An Egyptian court has sentenced two women TikTok influencers to six and 10 years in jail respectively for “human trafficking”, a lawyer representing one of them told AFP on Monday.

The ruling against Haneen Hossam and Mowada al-Adham was handed down late Sunday by the Cairo Criminal Court.

Adham was sentenced to six years, her lawyer Saber Sokkar said, while Hossam given a 10-year sentence, both accused of “human trafficking”.

Other charges include “corrupting family values, inciting debauchery and encouraging young women to practice sexual relations,” Sokkar said.

Adham was present in court for the ruling but Hossam, who is on the run, was sentenced in absentia, the lawyer said.

He said that Hossam was given a higher sentence because she had failed to appear in court at previous hearings.

The women can appeal, the lawyer said.

They were arrested last year and sentenced to two years each in jail for “attacking society’s values” in videos published on TikTok.

In one video Hossam told her 1.3 million subscribers that girls could work for her for money, for which she was also accused last year of “debauchery” and “human trafficking”.

But in January an appeals court acquitted the pair.

The targeting of female influencers has rekindled a heated debate in the deeply conservative Muslim country over what constitutes individual freedoms and social values.

The clampdown is however not unusual in Egypt, where several belly dancers and pop singers have been targeted in recent years over online content deemed too racy or suggestive.

Rights groups say more freedoms have been curtailed in Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who took office in 2014.

Egypt has in recent years enforced strict internet controls through laws allowing authorities to block websites seen as a threat to national security and to monitor personal social media accounts with over 5,000 followers.

AFP

Egypt Sends Convoy To Bombed-Out Gaza

A convoy of trucks loaded with construction equipment provided by Egypt arrives at the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Palestinian Gaza Strip enclave on June 4, 2021/ AFP

 

Egypt on Friday sent an aid convoy to neighbouring Gaza with diggers, trucks and cranes to “prepare the ground for reconstruction” of the bomb-battered Palestinian enclave, the government said.

“Following the directives of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, engineers and technical teams crossed the Rafah border point,” read a statement from the government.

Egypt’s heavily secured Rafah crossing is the Gaza Strip’s only passage to the outside world not controlled by Israel.

Sisi has pledged $500 million to help reconstruction efforts in densely populated Gaza, home to some two million people, and which was pummelled by Israeli airstrikes last month.

Egypt played a pivotal role in negotiating the May 21 ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas, which brought an end to 11 days of deadly fighting.

Photographs released by Egypt showed dozens of construction vehicles emblazoned with the Egyptian flag.

They will be used to “clear the rubble” of debris left after the strikes to “prepare the ground for reconstruction”, the statement added.

Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, health officials said.

Rockets and other fires from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, medics said.