Israeli civilians living around the Gaza border woke up Saturday, March 19, to the most massive mortar attack in years – 50 rounds fired in 15 minutes. Two civilians were injured and substantial damage caused to property. Hamas unusually claimed responsibility, emboldened by the support it has won from a new ally, the new rulers of Cairo, which have now lined up with Syria and Iran.
The Netanyahu government has not informed the Israeli public about the ominous new winds blowing in fromCairo although they are already in motion: Cairo has given Hamas rule of the Gaza Strip de facto recognition, is about to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip and is forging new understandings with Damascus and the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad radicals based there.
The Egyptian military which has taken over in Cairo also turned a blind eye to at least two or three Iranian arms ships which, prior to the capture of the A.S. Victoria last week, made it through the Israeli sea blockade and delivered weapons, including C-704 shore-to-sea missiles at El Arish. Hamas will be free to go out and collect them through the reopened Rafah crossing.
It is now obvious that Cairo's permission for two Iranian warships to transit the Suez Canal on Feb. 22, knowing that at least one was laden with weapons for extremists, was in line with the new Egyptian policy.
Israel had earlier allowed two Egyptian mechanized infantry brigades to enter Sinai and deploy along its Mediterranean coast, although this opened up the demilitarization clause of the 1979 peace treaty. Israel expected these troops to guard the gas pipeline carrying gas to Israel and Jordan and block the Iranian arms deliveries to Hamas. But this did not happen.
This week, spokesmen on behalf of the pipeline company announced that Egyptian gas was again flowing. It was not. After Israel appealed to the White House and the heads of the Senate and House foreign relations committees to intercede with Egypt, just a trickle of gas reached the pipeline on the pretext that the pipeline needed testing after it was blown up by Hamas on Feb. 5.
The Egyptian charade is ably supported by the Israeli government and its defense spokesmen, who keep on assuring everyone that nothing has changed in Egyptian-Israeli peace relations.
According to debkafile's Cairo sources, the live wire behind the Egyptian policy U-turn is the new foreign minister Nabil Alaraby. Only two weeks on the job, the first tasks he set himself were to lift the Egyptian-Israeli embargo on the Gaza Strip, reopen the Fatah crossing to free passage of people and goods, downgrade relations with Israel and the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas, and open a new page with Syria.
During the two days US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent in Cairo (March 15-16), the Egyptian Supreme Military Council sent the Mahabharat (Secret Service) chief Gen. Mourad Mwafi to Damascus. Syrian President Bashar Assad received him for a long conversation Friday, March 19, on the third day of his visit.
Thursday, the Egyptian general met Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. He was not put off by Meshaal's participation in the Iran-backed Islamist radical summit in Khartoum in the first week of March and its approval of two missions – to bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Cairo and to step up terrorist attacks on Israel.
So far, Israeli forces have had no success in tracking down the Hamas perpetrators of the vicious murders of five family members at Itamar on March 11. Considering the precipitous downturn in Israel's political and military situation and the ostrich-like reactions of its leaders, it looks very much as though Hamas is now dictating Israel's security agenda. Hamas, backed to the hilt by Iran, Syria and now Egypt, feels it can safely intensify its warfare on Israel without being slapped down.