Friday’s papers: A new law for houses of worship and another pipeline explosion

Friday's papers discuss continued adjustments to the unified law on houses of worship and another bombing of the natural gas pipeline running from Sinai to Jordan and Israel.

Al-Ahram writes that a unified law to facilitate the building of non-Islamic places of worship is still being studied; the process governing the construction of mosques will remain the same.

According to the draft law, only the governor will be responsible for building or renovating an existing place of worship only heads of non-Muslim religious sects will be capable of applying for building permits. Only permitted religious sects may apply for permits, and the distance between new and existing houses of worship cannot be less than 500 meters in cities and 300 meters in non-urban areas, reads the draft.

The state-owned paper also reports that the Sinai gas pipeline to Jordan and Israel was bombed for the seventh time in nine months on Thursday. Masked men armed with guns carried out the attack, setting fire to a number of nearby houses and the Ber al-Abd industrial district.

The fire was brought under control after about four hours, said Magdy Tawfiq, head of GASCO, the Egyptian company operating the pipeline. The gas supply to Jordan and Israel, as well as to Arish and Ber al-Abd, has been temporarily suspended as a result of the fire, he added.

The independent Al-Shorouk contradicts Tawfiq's account, reporting that the pipeline fire was put out in seven hours. Eyewitnesses saw six armed men in two sport utility vehicles (SUV) head toward the explosion site shortly before it occurred, the paper reports. The aggressors left a message in the sand, but Al-Shorouk declines to report what the message was. Residents of the area said they suspected it was a message to Egypt's political leadership.

State-owned Al-Akhbar leads with, “British sources: Israeli strike against Iran is next month.” The newspaper reports that a number of Western newspapers have stated that Israel is preparing for a military attack against Iran around Christmas time. The British Daily Mail wrote that US President Barack Obama will be in favor of the strike.

Adding to the pressure on Iran, Israeli sources said that a US official will arrive in Israel next week to discuss new sanctions against Iran, Al-Akhbar reports.

Al-Shorouk leads with, “The state is gone and chaos is here,” as a violent conflict between residents of the Awlad Yahia and Awlad Khalifa villages continued for the fourth day. Families in Awlad Khalifa were reportedly able to bury two of their deceased in secret with the help of the armed forces.

A curfew has been imposed on both villages, reads the story. One road leading into Awlad Khalifa, to which all roads had been completely cut off, has been opened in order to supply the village with food and gas cylinders and ensure a safe exit for any injured who must be transported to hospitals.

Al-Wafd reports that three were killed, three kidnapped, and 22 injured in three governorates in Upper Egypt Thursday. All 22 injured were taken to the Sohag general hospital, the paper says, adding that Sohag's governor and a number of officials have met with sheikhs and other leaders from both villages in an attempt to end the fighting.

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