If Egypt were not locked in mortal combat with Hamas, it is doubtful if Israel would have been allowed to battle Hamas so intensively for two whole weeks.
In 1982, Syrian president Hafez Assad, Bashar's father, slaughtered 25,000 Muslim Brotherhood extremists in the town of Hamma and the Tadmor prison in 1982, a calamity from which the Syrian branch has never recovered.
Since then, no Arab ruler has ever humiliated any Islamist terrorist group in the same way as 82-year old Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is now treating Hamas, because he believes that the Palestinian Islamists are a threat to his regime.
So intensely is the Egyptian ruler immersed in the campaign to destroy Hamas' military strength, that he has removed himself from Cairo to conduct it from his Sharm el-Sheikh palace in Sinai, shunning speech with anyone but his intelligence, military and security advisers.
While eschewing Assad senior's level of brutality, the Egyptian ruler has locked the Palestinian Islamists in the Gaza Strip and left them to the mercies of the Israeli army. Not only has he sealed the Rafah crossing into Sinai, he is withholding humanitarian treatment from Hamas casualties.
When two Hamas Damascus-based leaders finally turned up in Cairo Tuesday, Jan. 6, to discuss a ceasefire, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Egyptian sources report the pair, operations chief Imad al-Alami and politburo member Muhammad Nasser, were handed a brusque message by Egypt's deputy chief of intelligence Gen. Muhammed Kinawi.
They were told that henceforth, Hamas would not be allowed access to Egyptian statesmen or high officials – only military and intelligence officers. They must understand that the world had changed, along with the reality prevailing in the Gaza Strip. “Israel is now in the driving seat and handing out the dictates,” said the Egyptian general. “You are not compelled to surrender to those dictates, but you must recognize the new situation.”
He then issued the Hamas officials a deadline for responding to the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire, which met none of Hamas' demands for an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the reopening of the Gaza crossings.
Mubarak is more than willing to throw Hamas to the wolves
In short, Mubarak chose to throw Hamas to the wolves and squeeze its leaders hard until they surrender.
Never before has any Arab ruler treated a Palestinian organization as ruthlessly as Mubarak. And none has every joined hands with the United States and Israel to bring one so low.
The Egyptian ruler's actions are guided by four motives:
1. His is bent on restoring Egypt to center-stage in the Middle East , a star role which faded in the past decade.
2. He hopes to push Iran and its allies off their regional pedestal, trusting to Hamas's humiliation at Israel's hands to achieve this.
3. The Egyptian-Israeli peace track will take precedence over the Tehran-led radical axis, with Saudi backing.
4. Most of all, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources, the Egyptian president believes he is saving his country from the clutches of a dangerous upstart, Hamas, whose military strength has expanded to such monstrous proportions that it imperils Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
Mubarak is quoted as refuting the claim that the Hamas fighting force is inferior to the Lebanese Hizballah. Look how long, he says, it is taking the mighty Israeli army, armed with an air force and tanks, to beat Hamas into submission. The Gaza Strip has been pulverized for two weeks and still Hamas has not buckled
The Egyptian ruler first decided Hamas was a threat to the Arab region in the second half of 2007, when its leaders turned the tables and began lording it over their hosts in Cairo.
Since Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and subject to its Shura council, its takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 provided the Brotherhood with an autonomous sovereign territory for building an independent militia.
Since the stability of the Mubarak regime is contingent on marginalizing the Muslim Brotherhood and isolating it from the levers of power, Hamas' rise in the Gaza Strip was a matter for the deepest concern in Cairo.
The hugely profitable Hamas-Bedouin tunnel empire
Immediately upon its seizure of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority, Hamas built and expanded a mighty tunnel system for smuggling arms through Sinai into Gaza. It was extensive enough to pose a huge security menace – not only for Israel but Egypt too.
This subterranean stronghold branching out for hundreds of miles is protected by three Sinai Bedouin tribes, hired and armed with Iranian cash and weapons: The Tarabin, which have tribal territories in both North and South Sinai; the Tiyaha, which spreads far and wide across central Sinai. Both are of Palestinian origin. And the Azazmeh, which commands vast tracts of desert in northern Sinai, the Israeli Negev, Jordan and Syria.
Hamas recruited from among this 600,000-strong Bedouin population armed militias for securing its arms, personnel and money traffic through Egyptian Sinai.
While projecting the Gaza Strip to the West as a beleaguered Palestinian victim population, starved by an Israeli and Western embargo, Hamas has built its fortified tunnel system into one of the most prosperous business enterprises in the Middle East and a thriving arms trafficking route, which is administered and secured by Bedouin militias.
Hamas and the Bedouin both pull in huge profits.
The single division of Egyptian forces deployed in Sinai is no match for the better-armed Bedouin militias and has learned to stay clear of their lands. Every Israeli effort in recent years to destroy the tunnels was offset by the Bedouin who soon built new ones.
The powerful Bedouin militias' control of territory up the eastern bank of the Suez Canal and their command of Sinai's smuggling networks recently began to jeopardize Egypt's maritime economy and the Canal cities' wellbeing.
The Azazmeh tribes brought to the Hamas-Bedouin smuggling empire a second system of routes straddling the entire region. It is able to serve fellow terrorist organizations including al Qaeda, who use the service to transfer fighters, arms, forged documents and money to and from every corner of the Middle East and Persian Gulf.
Mubarak lives in hope that Israel will finally eradicate Hamas – no mean task. The Egyptian army well then set about destroying the Bedouin militias and their smuggling domain.