Egypt summons Hamas leaders for crisis talks five days after they blew up Gaza-Sinai border wall

Since Tuesday, Jan. 22, almost half Gaza’s Palestinian population of 1.5 million has surged into northern Sinai, their gunmen and sheer numbers forcing Egyptian riot troops to stand back while taking 40 injured, some critically. The summons to Cairo was issued by Egyptian foreign minister Abdullah Gheit who appealed to “our Palestinian brothers” not to abuse his government’s hospitality.
Egyptian border guards are reported to have apprehended 20 Palestinian bands armed with weapons and surveillance instruments in Sinai Saturday night.
Israel has closed the main Highway 10 to Eilat which runs along the 220-km unfenced frontier and sections of the Negev.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that the flood of shoppers masks intense efforts by the Palestinian terrorist Hamas, Jihad Islami, Fatah-Al Aqsa Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees as well as al Qaeda to establish a base in northern Sinai. They don’t see anyone stopping them.
Restoring the border, Western military experts have told debkafile, would require the deployment of 30,000 Egyptian troops to the El Arish area and divided Rafah Gaza border, backed by air force, navy and armored units.
This would contravene the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. But even if this obstacle could be overcome, Cairo would never on any account let itself be drawn into battle with Palestinians in view of the catastrophic impact it would have on President Hosni Mubarak’s standing at home and the Arab world. For now, the Egyptian army lacks strength on this scale without calling up reserves.
Hamas and its allies have broken the Israeli siege of Gaza. In so doing, a bunch of terrorist groups has acquired control of a chunk of northern Sinai twice the size of the Gaza Strip as well as a safe haven against Israeli reprisals for their cross-border attacks. A Western military source says the terrorists have laid the foundations of a “Palestinian Waziristan.”
At best, Mubarak might persuade the Gazan invaders to accept a power-sharing arrangement over the lost Egyptian enclave.
Early Thursday, Jan. 24, American forces and equipment withdrew from the Multi-Force Organization base at Al Gura northeast of al Arish when they learned from Egyptian contacts that Hamas had begun moving some of its elite units into the new stronghold. Washington and Cairo are discussing evacuating the entire base and its 400 multinational personnel, which monitors Sinai’s demilitarization under the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, for fear of Hamas and al Qaeda missile fire and shelling of the base.

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