debkafile: Egypt braces for border showdown with Hamas, Israel sustains 30-missile pounding from Gaza

Friday, Feb. 8, Egyptian troops manning the Gaza-Sinai border were given extra security after Hamas threatened to attack them and stage kidnappings, if 15 of their gunmen were not released. The Egyptians were told to stay together in armed groups of three and posted snipers on the rooftops on their side of the divided Gazan town of Rafah.
The escalation of Palestinian violence from Gaza has created an explosive situation on its Israel and Egyptian borders. Friday, terrorist groups fired 30 missiles at Israeli civilians, targeting Ashkelon as well as Sderot and its neighbors. At least 10 people suffered shock and minor injuries. The damage was heavy. Terrorist spokesmen advised Israeli civilians to leave town as more intensive barrages were ahead. Israel and its emergency services are on high weekend alert.
An intelligence source told debkafile that if the situation veers out of control, Egyptian troops may be ordered to cross into the Gaza Strip to capture Palestinian terrorists. Hamas threatens to retaliate against Egyptian forces in Sinai.
The 15 armed Palestinians arrested in the Egyptian peninsula crossed from Gaza after Hamas blew up the wall separating Gaza from Sinai 12 days ago and set off a general exodus. They carried explosives and sidearms ready for cross-border attacks. More armed bands are suspected at large on the Egyptian-Israeli border poised for incursions.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly disclosed Friday that President Hosni Mubarak decided to crack down on the Hamas-led mass Palestinian invasion of Sinai after Saudi King Abdullah, a former Hamas patron, warned him that the Palestinian fundamentalists were on a rampage which unchecked could provoke destabilizing radical violence against Arab regimes.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly published the details of the exchange of messages between the two Arab rulers in its latest issue.
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Thursday, Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Abul Gheit warned anyone crossing the border would have their legs broken. He mocked Hamas for firing rockets into Israel – thereby provoking the Israel blockade of Gaza – as “a laughable caricature.” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum advised the Egyptian minister to stop making threats.
In Cairo, defense minister Mohammed Tantawi backed Abu Gheit by saying no one was allowed to violate national security and Egypt has an arsenal “that conforms with the most modern technology in the world.”

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