Egyptian troops enter Sinai to hunt Hamas intruders. Two captured
Egyptian reinforcements reached northern Sinai Monday, Jan. 31 to hunt down Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip battling Egyptian forces for control of the territory. Two were captured. debkafile's military sources report that the gunmen of Hamas's armed wing, Ezz e-Din al Qassam opened a second, Palestinian, front against the Mubarak regime on orders from Hamas' parent organization, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, confirmed by its bosses in Damascus. The Muslim Brotherhood is therefore more aggressively involved in the uprising than it would seem.
debkafile's military sources report that Sunday, Hamas gunmen attacked Egyptian Interior Ministry Special Forces (CFF) stationed in the southern Egyptian-controlled section of the border town of Rafah and the Sinai port of El Arish. Saturday, Bedouin tribesmen and local Palestinians exploited the mayhem in Cairo to clash with Egyptian forces at both northern Sinai key points, ransack their gun stores and free prisoners from the local jail. Officials in Gaza City confirmed Sunday, that Hamas's most notorious smuggling experts, including Muhammad Shaar, had broken out of the El Arish jail and reached Gaza City.
Sunday, Hamas terrorists aimed to start pushing Egyptian forces out of the northern and central regions of the peninsula and so bring Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip under Palestinian control. Hamas would then be able to break out of the Egyptian blockade of the enclave and restore its smuggling routes in full. The reinforcements from Cairo Monday were instructed to drive them back into the Gaza Strip. Early Sunday, they began moving east through the tunnels under the Suez.
Our military sources further report that the Multinational Force & Observers (MFO), most of whose members are Americans and Canadians, are on maximum alert at their northern Sinai base, while they wait for US military transports to evacuate them to US bases in Europe.
This force was deployed in Sinai in 1981 for peacekeeping responsibilities and the supervision of the security provisions of the 1979 Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel under which the peninsula was demilitarized except for Egyptian police. Ending the MFO's mission in Sinai after thirty years knocks down a key pillar propping up the relations of peace between Egypt and Israel.
The Egyptian troop presence in Sinai, which violates the terms of the peace treaty, has not been mentioned by either of the peace partners. Our Jerusalem sources report the Netanyahu government may have tacitly approved it.
Hamas' Gaza leaders do not seem to fear Israeli military action – or even an air attack – to interfere with their incursion of Sinai and attempts to control the long Egyptian-Israeli border snaking south of the Gaza Strip along the Negev up to the Red Sea port of Eilat.