Sinai attack seals up Gaza to outside world (+video) (CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR) By Ahmed Aldabba GAZA CITY, GAZA 08/06/12)
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In the wake of yesterday´s attack on Egyptian guards in the Sinai,
Gaza´s border crossings with Israel and Egypt, as well as smuggling
tunnels, have been shut down.
Although Islamic militant group Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip,
has strongly condemned the killing of Egyptian guards at the border
with Israel and Gaza yesterday, many Palestinians in the enclave
still blame the group for not doing enough to exert control over the
Gunmen disguised as Bedouins attacked an Egyptian border post
yesterday, killing at least 16 guards and soldiers. The attackers
then hijacked two armored vehicles and stormed the border with
Israel. One was destroyed by Israeli attack helicopters, while the
other exploded when it came into contact with an evacuated Israeli
border post, but several of the gunmen remain at large
The incident could strain the relationship between Egypt´s newly
empowered Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, an offshoot of the Egyptian
Islamist group, if it turns out that the gunmen came from Gaza as
Egyptian officials have alleged.
Israel and Egypt have closed their official border crossings with
Gaza until further notice, and Egyptian and Hamas officials have shut
down the hundreds of tunnels that are used to smuggle food, fuel, and
construction materials to the Israel-blockaded seaside territory
because Egypt believes that the gunmen tried to escape into Gaza
Gazans get a major percentage of their goods through the smuggling
tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, and news of the closure of both the
border crossings and tunnels panicked residents, bringing back dire
memories of a tight Israeli blockade that deprived the area of many
daily needs before the tunnels were dug.
In Gaza City, cars lined up in front of gas stations to refill in
preparation for an expected shortage and people flocked to markets to
stock up on goods after rumors spread that the Egyptian military
planned to destroy the tunnels.
"Only God knows when the border will open again," says Um Khaled, a
teacher, as she bought canned beef and sardines in Gaza´s old
market. "The Egyptians have helped us a lot. They opened the borders
for us and let the tunnels work around the clock. Killing [the
Egyptians] should not be the reward."
She urged Hamas to bring the remaining attackers to justice if they
really were from Gaza. Military actions against Israel or Egypt
always cause disasters for ordinary people, she says.
Taxi driver Mahmoud Sa´ad says he fully believes that Hamas has no
links with those who killed the Egyptian soldiers, but he blames
Hamas for allowing them to move freely in and out of Gaza.
"Everyone well knows that those radical Islamists have influence in
Sinai and that they move freely on both sides using the tunnels that
are controlled by Hamas. Hamas should have got rid of them long ago
because now they are harming their own interests," Mr. Sa´ad says.
Israel has always warned that the Sinai is a staging ground for
militants, and its warnings have increased amid deteriorating
security on the sparsely populated desert peninsula since former
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year.
Despite Egypt´s accusations that Palestinians were behind the attack,
Gaza´s Hamas-led government denied that any of the Palestinians
factions in the enclave had any role in the operation.
"We only fight Israel. And when we fight it, we start the fight from
our territories," said Islam Shahwan, a spokesman for the Gaza
Interior Ministry. "We have blocked the tunnels and are looking for
any infiltrators," he added.
Mukhaimar abu Saada, a professor of political science at Gaza´s Azhar
University, believes Hamas is responsible for the infiltration of
militants into Egypt because it controls Gaza and guards its borders.
"If Gazans were among the killers of Egyptians soldiers, then Hamas
is to blame simply because it has always given them a green light to
use the tunnels for both transportation and arms smuggling," Mr. Abu
But Hamas would not risk involvement in such an attack, he says. As
an offshoot of Egypt´s Muslim Brotherhood, now Egypt´s leading
political force, Hamas now has close ties to the Egyptian government.
Mohamed Morsi, Egypt´s new president, was a longtime member of the
Muslim Brotherhood, and only left it at the outset of his time in
office. (© The Christian Science Monitor. 08/06/12)
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