The military attack came about a week after the administration of
President Barack Obama approved $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt for
fiscal 2012, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said the administration determined that military aid
was crucial to encourage Egypt, in wake of the ouster of President Hosni
Mubarak, to cooperate with the United States, particularly in allowing naval
ships to use the Suez Canal.
In testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 1, Ms.
Guirguis cited Egyptian sources as well as videos regarding details of the
military attack. She said at least five MBTs as well as armored vehicles and
a bulldozer were deployed in the operation against St. Bishoy and St.
Makarious, located in Wadi El Natroun and Fayoum, respectively.
Egypt's MBT fleet is mostly comprised of the U.S.-origin M1A1. Ms.
Guirguis did not cite the use of U.S. weapons in the attacks on the
"After the attack, monks collected dozens of bullet shells as evidence,
which they understood would be needed to counter the expected denials on the
part of those in power," Ms. Guirguis, a researcher at the Washington
Institute for Near East Policy, said.
The Egyptian Army attacks took place on Feb. 23 and Feb. 24 and lasted
at least 30 minutes each. Ms. Guirguis said the army fired rocket-propelled
grenades as well as other munitions against the monks and dozens of
civilians were injured.
At St. Makarious, Egyptian troops stormed the monastery while firing
their weapons and later confiscated building material. The troops were also
seen destroying trees on the grounds of the monastery.
"While governance is not within the military purview, no one expected
the military to actively take action against vulnerable religious minorities
at this time," Ms. Guirguis said.
The Supreme Military Council, chaired by Defense Minister Hussein
Tantawi, denied the attacks. A council statement called on Egyptians to
"The international community should hold Egypt's military, now currently
at the country's helm, to at least the same standards to which we held
Mubarak's regime in calling for respect for fundamental freedoms including
the right to assembly and speech and worship," Ms. Guirguis said.