Mossad blamed for raid
CAIRO / GAZA CITY
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (C) and Egyptian Defense Minister and Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi (L) visit a checkpoint and soldiers in al-Arish. AFP photo
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas have accused Israel of directing a deadly attack in which 16 policemen were killed in Sinai last weekend. Israel has responded swiftly to the allegations, dismissing them as “nonsense.”
A statement from the Brotherhood said Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, was trying to abort the Egyptian uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak last year and that it was “imperative to review clauses” of the agreement between Egypt and Israel.
“This crime may well be the work of Israel’s Mossad, which has sought to abort the revolution ever since its launch, and which issued instructions to Israeli citizens in Sinai to leave immediately, just days ago. It is clearly noticeable that every time a warning like this is issued, a terrorist incident takes place in Sinai,” the statement on the Brotherhood’s official website said. A largely demilitarized Sinai is the keystone of the historic 1979 peace deal between the two countries. But for the past year there has been growing lawlessness in the vast desert expanse, as Bedouin bandits, jihadists and Palestinian militants from next-door Gaza fill the vacuum, tearing at already frayed relations between Egypt and Israel.
“This attack also draws our attention to the fact that our forces in Sinai lack the personnel and the equipment to protect the region or guard our borders, which makes it imperative to review the terms of our accords with Israel,” the group said.
Pressure to Morsi
Gaza’s Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya has joined the Muslim Brotherhood in accusing Israel of orchestrating the Sinai attack. “Israel is responsible, one way or another, for this attack to embarrass Egypt’s leadership and create new problems at the border in order to ruin efforts to end the [Israeli] siege of the Gaza Strip,” Agence France-Press quoted Haniya as saying. However, the Egyptian army indicated that the attackers may have had the help of Palestinian militants. Hamas officials have condemned the killings, but Morsi may still come under pressure to back down from plans to end Egypt’s cooperation with the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. “No Palestinian wants to kill anybody in Egypt. Any attack against Egypt’s security is also against the security of Palestinians,” Haniya said in a statement issued after an emergency meeting of the Hamas government.
On Aug. 6 Israel dismissed the Muslim Brotherhood’s claims, saying it was in no way involved in the deadly attack in Sinai. “Even the person who says this, when he looks at himself in the mirror, does not believe the nonsense he is uttering,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, Reuters reported. Egypt said 35 gunmen in Bedouin clothing opened fire on border guards before crossing into Israel in an armored vehicle on Aug. 5. Israel said five gunmen were killed on its side of the frontier.
Meanwhile, Egyptian troops and police on raided homes in search of suspects and prepared to close smuggling tunnels to Gaza, security officials said. Witnesses said large trucks loaded with bulldozers headed to Rafah, a town on the border with the Palestinian Gaza Strip that sits atop a honeycomb of smuggling tunnels. “There are preparations to close the tunnels,” a security official said. Officials said soldiers and police raided several homes near the north Sinai town of El-Arish in search of known Islamist extremists who might be linked to the attack. The crackdown was underway as the military held a funeral for the soldiers.