Research institute JCPA reports that Egypt has officially accused Hamas of training the terror operatives who assassinated Egyptian Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat last year. Hamas now fears that Egypt will declare the movement a terror organization and torpedo Turkey’s efforts to ease the blockade of Gaza.
In recent weeks, senior Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip claimed that the movement’s relations with Egypt have improved somewhat thanks to contacts initiated by Hamas leaders. However, an announcement by the Egyptian Interior Ministry on March 6, 2016, sharply rebuffed such claims.
In a press conference, the Egyptian interior minister, General Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, declared that Egyptian security forces had arrested a network of 48 Muslim Brotherhood terror operatives responsible for the assassination of Egyptian Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat and that Hamas had played a “major role” in training the operatives.
The prosecutor general’s convoy after a bomb on a Cairo Street
Barakat was killed by a car bomb directed at his convoy as it passed through central Cairo. According General Ghaffar Barakat’s assassination had been planned by Muslim Brotherhood leaders who had found political asylum in Turkey and that the terrorists had been trained by Hamas. Hamas, he said, had played a “major role” in training and preparing the perpetrators over a period of three months. That claim was bolstered by electronic communications between Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Turkey that were intercepted by Egypt.
The Egyptian operatives had been trained in northern Sinai and then brought into Gaza with the help of Bedouin residents. At the end of the training, they returned to Sinai where they prepared the explosives for the attack. The Egyptian Interior Ministry said the terror operatives who were apprehended also planned to attack several public figures as well as foreign embassies in Egypt, with the aim of destabilizing the country.
The Balad Egyptian TV channel cited an Egyptian security expert who said the explosives used in the attack had been brought to Egypt from Qatar through diplomatic mail channels of the Qatari embassy in Egypt. Both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood maintain offices in Qatar.
Hamas – Daesh cooperation?
Egyptian authorities say Hamas is also actively assisting Wilayat Sinai, the Islamic State movement’s branch in northern Sinai, and that this aid involves training its operatives in Gaza and treating its wounded fighters in Gaza hospitals. In return, Wilayat Sinai helps Hamas smuggle weapons into Gaza from Sinai.
Some similarities: Hamas-Hizbollah-ISIS
The timing of the Egyptian announcement on Hamas and Turkey’s connection with the prosecutor general’s murder is not coincidental. Egypt is now under pressure from Saudi Arabia to agree to a Turkish foothold in Gaza, linked to the easing of the blockade and the building of a floating seaport that would enable Turkish ships to reach the Gaza Strip. The Egyptians strongly oppose Turkey’s demand because of its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, outlawed by Egypt, and because of Hamas’ involvement in terror within Egypt.
Egypt is under pressure from Saudi Arabia to agree to a Turkish foothold in Gaza. Hamas pins great hopes on Turkey’s efforts to get Israel to ease the blockade on Gaza and build the floating seaport in return for normalization of Turkish-Israeli relations. Hamas fears that Egypt will decide to declare it a terror organization, just as the Gulf States declared Hizbullah to be one on March 2, 2016. The Arab interior ministers’ meeting in Tunisia also came out in support of the move against Hizbullah.
Egypt is rejecting Hamas’ requests for a permanent opening of the Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only egress to the Arab world. Since Sisi took office Egypt has opened the crossing for only a few days each year. The aim is to pressure the Hamas government, which is working with radical Islamic forces to undermine the Egyptian regime. Source and more at: Hamas’ Terrorism in Egypt Yoni Ben Menachem/JCPA
Easing of longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza is related to planned long ceasefire deal between Hamas’ political wing and Israel. In April 30, 2015 it was reported, that official representatives of the Israeli government and defense establishment have been holding a real dialogue with the Islamic terrorist group – Hamas – in a bid to reach a long-term calm on the Gaza border. These secret talks have been “partly direct” and partly through Qatari and European mediators. There is struggle inside Hamas between political and military wings and same time a group calling itself Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem has continued to challenge the Gaza-ruling Palestinian entity Hamas.
From point of view Fatah (PLO/West Bank) Hamas’ agreement to establish a seaport under Israel’s full supervision and opposition to transferring the Rafah crossing to PA control, constitute clear proof of Hamas’ intentions to sever Gaza from “the homeland.”
More in my articles What’s Going On In Gaza (And Mideast Peace) and Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander
Egypt is implementing sc Gaza blockade
Following the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007 the imposition of a sc blockade or siege took place. The situation has been compounded by the restrictions imposed since June 2013 by the Egyptian authorities at Rafah Crossing. Egypt is now implementing measures which will totally block unofficial traffic aka smuggling. In my opinion Egypt not Israel is blocking Gaza today.
Egyptian military vehicles are transferring Mediterranean Sea water to the Rafah border, to fill a newly-built crude canal, flooding and destroying the lifeline tunnels connecting Egypt and blockaded Gaza. By canal the Egyptian government is trying to economically crush Hamas, an ally of the Muslim brotherhood. Egypt is planning that sea water will flood into any remaining undiscovered tunnels and completely destroy them. So called Gaza blockade or siege is one of the main causes or excuse – depending from viewpoint – for flotillas, BDS, EU’s labelling plans, anti-Semitism, donations to Hamas, humanitarian crisis etc. Given the facts referred above one could conclude that blaming Israel for blockade is at least unjust. (More in Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel! )
Egypt discovers enormous tunnels coming from Gaza
YNetNews reported on 11th March 2016 that tunnels big enough to fit a truck have been discovered by the Egyptian military on the Sinai-Gaza border. These tunnels are allegedly the source of weapons being used by ISIS and Islamic Jihad in the peninsula, and point to a thriving weapons industry in the Strip. The tunnels connect the Gaza Strip with the Sinai Peninsula, and are being built in order to compensate for the tunnels which were flooded or blocked by the Egyptians.
Israeli security officials don’t know of any tunnels that large crossing into Israel. However, if they do exist, Israel will have to take into account the possibility of the existence of tunnels that are over three kilometers in length, which will make them harder to find.
Israel estimates that the recent increase in the number of tunnel collapses in Gaza in the past several months is due to the increased difficulty in obtaining materials to structurally support the tunnels – principally wood and cement. To replace these materials, Hamas is using fiberglass, which is also illegal to import into the Strip. Hamas still tries to smuggle it in, even though the material can’t support the same amount of weight as cement, and collapses.
The Egyptian government also notes another worrying phenomenon regarding the relations between Hamas and the terrorist organizations in the Sinai: it turns out that Hamas has become a weapons exporter to Egypt – the export of weapons made in the Gaza Strip in industrial quantaties is a new phenomenon which indicates a new level of institutionalization of the weapons manufacturing process in the Strip.
In the past several months, several types of weapons were found by Egyptian security forces which bear the markings of being manufactured by the Hamas military wing. Amongst the weapons found were solar water heaters filled with explosive materials, which are one of the deadliest weapons ISIS in Sinai uses against the Egyptian military. The solar water heaters are used as ‘Improvised explosive devices’ (IEDs) with the ability to take out a tank.
The Egyptian government also claims that ISIS shoots Hamas-made rockets at Egyptian military bases in the peninsula. Hamas also ships weapons from the Gaza Strip to elements affiliated with global Islamic Jihad which is active in Sinai. These are weapons which were smuggled into Gaza either by the Iranians or from Libya, which then ended up in the hands of the jihadists. Source: YNetNews
10th March 2016 again at least seven Palestinians digging a wide tunnel to smuggle “goods” under the divided Gaza-Egyptian town of Rafah died when the Egyptian army flooded the tunnel with sea water and caused its collapse.
The relations between Egypt and Hamas are one core question in (partial) Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Besides planned Hamas-Israel ceasefire deal Egypt has a decisive role if sc ‘Sinai option’ (more in Sinai Option again ) will go further as partial solution to conflict. Also even without these kind progress Egypt’s actions with Rafah crossing have great importance for welfare of Gaza population.
Article first appeared in Conflicts by Ari Rusila