Hamas on high alert after killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers in Sinai

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GAZA CITY — The Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip has been placed on
alert for a war in neighboring Egypt.

Officials said Hamas has mobilized more than 20,000 troops to maintain
the stability of the Gaza Strip in wake of the killing of 16 Egyptian
soldiers in the neighboring Sinai Peninsula. They said the Islamist regime
was concerned that a Egyptian military operation in Sinai would spread to
the Gaza Strip.

A member of the Hamas government’s security forces stands guard on the Palestinian side of Rafah.

“The national security services are on a 100 percent state of alert to
maintain common security between the Gaza Strip and Egypt,” Hamas security force commander Jamal Al Jarrah said.

On Aug. 8, the Egyptian Army launched an offensive in northeastern
Sinai. U.S.-origin F-16 multi-role fighters and AH-64 Apache attack
helicopters fired air-to-ground missiles that killed at least 33 suspected Palestinian insurgents in Sheik Zweid, located 10 kilometers from the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip.

Al Jarrah, a senior official in the Hamas Interior Ministry, raised the
prospect that the Gaza Strip would be trapped between operations by Egypt and Israel. Al Jarrah pointed to accusations that Hamas or Palestinian militias in the Gaza Strip were responsible for an attack on Egyptian Army and police facilities in eastern Sinai on Aug. 5, regarded as the worst attack in the peninsula in decades.

“The occupation [Israel] is trying to spread its rumors and hold Gaza
responsible for the attack, to cause tension in relations between the
Palestinian and Egyptian people,” Al Jarrah said in a statement on the Hamas
Interior Ministry website on Aug. 6. “We assert that we are working around
the clock to maintain common security.”

On Aug. 6, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh telephoned Egyptian
military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Murad Muwafi to discuss border
security. Hamas spokesman Taher Al Nunu said the two men also reviewed
security cooperation.

Muwafi said the attack was conducted by Bedouins and Palestinians. He
said the insurgents were believed to have been part of an Islamist group
that operated in Sinai as well as in the Gaza Strip. Later, Egyptian sources
identified that group as Army of Islam, an Al Qaida-inspired network based
in Gaza City.

Hamas has condemned the attack in Sinai, in which Islamist fighters
burst through the Israeli border. Egyptian security sources said Palestinian
fighters from the Gaza Strip aided and might have participated in the

The Sinai attack has sparked plans for a major Egyptian Army operation
in the peninsula. Only days earlier, Hamas and Egypt conducted a summit in
which the two sides raised the prospect of forming strategic cooperation,
including Hamas aid to stabilize eastern Sinai.

“The national security of Egypt and the national security of Palestine
are one and the same,” Haniyeh said. “Our government is fully prepared to
cooperate with the Egyptian security forces to uncover the circumstances
behind this incident.”

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