Egypt sends delegation to Tunisia to assist Egyptians fleeing Libya
Plumes of smoke rise in the sky after a rocket hit a fuel storage tank near the airport road in Tripoli - REUTERS
By AMIRA EL-FEKKI

CAIRO: The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has sent a diplomatic delegation to Tunisia in order to help with the evacuation of Egyptians leaving Libya through Tunisia, DPA reported Monday.

The delegation will join a team assigned by the Egyptian Embassy in Tunis, and will coordinate with Tunisian authorities to assist Egyptian citizens who wish to return to their homeland, DPA added.

Sunday, the ministry renewed its calls for Egyptian citizens in Benghazi and Tripoli to immediately leave for security reasons, advising them to head to Ras Ajdir on the border between Tunisia and Libya.

“An Egyptian diplomatic delegation will be waiting in Tunisia to ensure the fast and easy process of letting in Egyptians coming from Libya,” the ministry stated in a press release on Sunday.

However, Tunisian authorities said Egyptians must have a Tunisia-Egypt air ticket to be able to return home. Meanwhile, at Cairo International Airport, security officials have been warning Egyptians not to travel to Libya, following an official warning issued earlier by the ministry.

Twenty-three Egyptians were reported dead on Saturday in a rocket attack on the neighborhoods of Karimia and Swani in Tripoli, amid deadly clashes between Libyan special forces and rival militias in Benghazi.

Speaking to CBC channel Sunday, FM spokesperson Badr Abdel Atty condemned the attack and said Libyan authorities were “to bear responsibility” for the death of the Egyptians, and urged them to investigate the incident.

Nonetheless, the Libyan Interior Ministry responded Monday morning by denying that any Egyptians were killed in the rocket attack. In a statement, the Libyan Interior Ministry said, “The news is unfounded, only one Egyptian was among the injured and he was transferred to a hospital.”

Egyptians continue to face death in Libya

Dozens of civilians have been killed in fights in Tripoli and Benghazi over the past two weeks, especially since militias operate inside cities. The government said more than 150 people have died in total so far, Reuters reported on July 27.

Amidst the violence, Egyptians have been targeted by extremists, often kidnapped and executed by armed groups.

In January, Egyptian diplomats were held hostage in Tripoli. The deadliest incident occurred a month later, when seven Egyptian Copts were taken from their house by armed men upon the identification of their religious affiliation, and were shot dead. Authorities later found their bodies on a beach in Benghazi.

Two more Egyptians were shot in March in a market in Benghazi and in April, a 15-year-old Egyptian was reportedly abducted by gunmen.

Egyptian warnings against traveling to Libya have been issued by the Foreign Ministry since May. From the Libyan side, comments from Libyan Ambassador to Egypt Mohamed Fayez were limited to saying that the incidents were attempts to destroy relations between the two countries.

“What happens to Egyptians in Libya aims to create tension and destabilize Libya,” Fayez said in comments to Mehwar channel on April 13.

News also becomes jumbled whenever a hostile incident happens to Egyptians in Libya. In March, it was unclear whether more than 50 Egyptians were captured or held by authorities, as Fayez would not confirm or deny kidnapping claims.

The beginning of repeated violence against Egyptians in Libya was a method to pressure Egyptian authorities to release the former head of the Libyan Revolutionaries Chamber Shaban Hedeya, known as Abou Obaida.

Indeed, on Jan. 27, the Libyan Ministry of Interior announced the release of five kidnapped Egyptian diplomats following Abou Obaida’s release and planned return to Libya.

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