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August 23, 2014 / 27 Av, 5774
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After the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Is Hamas in Gaza Next in Line?

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Originally published at Israel and Terrorism.

Egypt has finally decided to tackle the security threat from the Sinai Peninsula, a region that was nearly under the control of jihadist organizations with links to al-Qaeda and Hamas.

The Egyptian army’s ultimate goal is clear: to recover Egypt’s sovereignty in Sinai. In order to succeed in its mission, the Egyptian supreme command understands that it must neutralize Hamas, which it sees as partly responsible for the security situation in Sinai during the last few years.

For the first time since it was founded, Hamas is showing signs of panic. Egyptian newspapers quoted Palestinian sources as saying that 90 percent of the smuggling tunnels along the border with Gaza have stopped functioning as a result of Egyptian measures, leading to the potential loss of nearly 40 percent of Hamas’ revenues.

With the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt counting its dead by the hundreds and the campaign being waged by the Egyptian army against them far from over, and with its relations with Turkey and Qatar faltering, Hamas has instructed its spokesmen to avoid making any comments about the crisis in Egypt so as not to evoke the wrath of Egyptian army Commander in Chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Since the Egyptian military ousted President Mohamed Morsi in early July 2013, it has embarked on a punitive campaign against Hamas, the self-declared offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood.

During this time, the Egyptian army has destroyed more than 300 tunnels (out of as many as 800), the arteries of the Gaza economy; created a 500-meter-wide buffer zone along the 11 km. Gaza-Egypt border, from the Mediterranean Sea until the Israel-Egypt border south of Rafah, while razing scores of inhabited buildings that stood in the way;1 implemented a de-facto siege on Gaza by closing intermittently the official Israel-Egypt border crossing; chased Gaza fisherman at sea; and engaged in an unprecedented and coordinated media smear campaign against Hamas, accusing the terrorist group of trying to destabilize Egypt and ultimately replace the government with its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Indeed, Egypt has finally decided to tackle the security threat from the Sinai Peninsula, a region that was nearly under the control of jihadist organizations with links to al-Qaeda and Hamas. The Egyptian army has massed troops, deployed combat helicopters, dispatched navy patrol boats, and is carrying out coordinated attacks against concentrations of terrorists in Sinai.

The Egyptian army’s ultimate goal is clear: to recover Egypt’s sovereignty in Sinai. In order to succeed in its mission, the Egyptian supreme command understands that it must neutralize Hamas, which it sees as partly responsible for the security situation in Sinai during the last few years.

Hamas’ Strong Ties to the Muslim Brotherhood

There is no doubt that the origin of the Egyptian military’s actions against Hamas lay in the basic fact that during the brief rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt under the Morsi presidency, Hamas enjoyed a privileged position and almost an official adoption by the regime, to such a point that Hamas behaved as if it was part of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood. For example, Hamas enjoyed complete freedom for its illegal commerce through the 650-800 tunnels that linked the Gaza Strip to Egypt; for its assistance to jihadi groups in Sinai; for its unaccountability for the six Egyptian police officers kidnapped and held in Gaza for more than five years; and, ultimately, for ignoring the Egyptian armed forces’ warnings since Hamas was (according to some sources) led by government officials who issued instructions to ignore the Egyptian army since it was irrelevant.

However, beyond these facts, the actual ruling team in Egypt knows that Hamas was involved in the earliest days of the revolution against President Mubarak, when protesters stormed Egyptian prisons and freed hundreds of detainees, who were mostly Muslim Brothers, as well as Hizbullah and Palestinian operatives held in Egypt for terrorist activities. Hamas took part alongside the Egyptian Muslim Brothers in the violence against the Mubarak regime and, according to some press releases, Hamas operatives were involved in firing metal darts against anti-Morsi protesters loyal to the regime.2

In addition, the Egyptian armed forces accuse Hamas of harboring the jihadists that killed almost 30 Egyptian officers and soldiers in Sinai in the summer of 2012. The Egyptian army also claims that at least five Hamas operatives were involved in the execution of 25 unarmed Egyptian policemen near el-Arish on August 19, 2013.3 The Egyptian army has also accused Hamas of trying to smuggle hundreds of deadly weapons, including 19 Grad rockets, and fake Egyptian army uniforms, in order to create havoc inside Egypt.4

Currently, 15 major terrorist groups operate in Sinai. Each of these groups, without exception, is closely linked to terrorist activities in the Gaza Strip. Egyptian and Israeli authorities are aware that several of the most dominant jihadists in Sinai, including those who were involved in the attack against the Egyptian army in 2012, are now hiding in Gaza with Hamas’ knowledge and consent.5 Finally, Hamas is accused of harboring the new Muslim Brothers’ Supreme Guide, Mahmoud Ezzat, in Gaza and of conducting joint training between Muslim Brothers who found refuge in Gaza and elements of the Al-Qassam Brigades in the area of Khan Younes before sending them to Sinai and inside Egypt.6

Economic Pressure in Gaza

Given what is happening in Egypt now, Hamas is alarmed. For the first time since it was founded, Hamas is showing signs of panic.7 The cost to Hamas is tremendous: Egyptian newspapers quoted Palestinian sources as saying that 90 percent of the smuggling tunnels along the border with the Gaza Strip have stopped functioning as a result of the Egyptian measures. According to the Gaza economic ministry, the recent tunnel destruction has cost Gaza around $230 million.8 Hamas spokesmen appealed to the Egyptian authorities asking them not to shut down the tunnels until Hamas could find other channels for bringing goods into Gaza. The extent to which Hamas relies on the smuggling tunnels is evident in an internal report made public by the Al-Monitor news site. It shows that Gaza gets most of its goods through the tunnels, and not through the official border crossings from Israel or Egypt. In the first quarter of 2013, for example, the tunnels provided 65 percent of flour, 98 percent of sugar and 100 percent of steel and cement deliveries.9

If the delivery of goods via the tunnels is discontinued, a lack of supplies will not be the only problem. It will create financial disaster for Hamas, since taxes on goods delivered via Israel are transferred to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Only taxes on smuggled goods end up in the Hamas treasury. It has been estimated that these taxes account for 40 percent of the government’s entire revenue and are used by Hamas to pay the salaries of over 45,000 civil servants. In recent months, Hamas has been earning some $8 million in taxes on smuggled fuel alone, and also levies a tax of about $5.40 on every ton of cement. An average of 70,000 tons of cement is smuggled into Gaza every month.10

Hamas’ leaders are consulting over how, and even if, they can help their brothers in Cairo, but at the same time they are talking about how to stay alive. So while the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is counting its dead by the hundreds, and the campaign being waged by the Egyptian army against them is far from over, the Hamas movement has withdrawn into itself and instructed its spokesmen to avoid making any comments about the crisis in Egypt, so that it does not upset those very people it really does not want to upset right now. Hamas spokesmen totally deny Hamas involvement in terrorist attacks conducted against Egyptian troops in Sinai. Hamas did not dare organize even a single rally in support of them. It seems that fear causes Hamas to take extra precautions – both in word and deed – so as not to evoke the wrath of Egyptian army Commander in Chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.11

The situation in Egypt has paralyzed Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and even the leader of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Meshaal, who seems to have disappeared ever since Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was deposed.12

There was little surprise that the Hamas leaders who have spoken out against Egypt are those based abroad and not those living in Gaza.13 As a political scientist at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University put it, “Those who live abroad don’t care as much about Gaza’s isolation, but Gaza’s rulers will pay the price for any Egyptian escalation. I think those in Gaza will be more prudent and nuanced when they speak about the new Egyptian government.”14

Hamas Losing Allies

The most important question of all remains: What future does Hamas have? For the first time in more than two decades, Hamas has no regional political allies in positions of power – a huge problem for a movement that is heavily dependent on alliances that provide financial, military, and political support. Sunni Hamas severed ties with former ally Syria last year over its crackdown on the predominantly Sunni Syrian opposition. As a result, Iran has stopped its financial aid that consisted of almost $20 million per month.15 Syria and Hamas, along with Iran and Hizbullah, formed the so-called “axis of resistance” that opposed Israel and the West. For decades, Syria embraced Hamas’ leadership and provided the Islamic movement with funds, weapons, and political support, which were used to wage war against Israel and, later, the more moderate Palestinian faction, Fatah.

Now, Hamas has turned to Turkey and Qatar to fill the void.16 However, since Egypt’s Islamist government was toppled, and following the deterioration in Turkish-Egyptian as well as Qatari-Egyptian relations, Hamas’ relationship with Turkey and Qatar has seemed to be faltering. Egypt was the critical link between Gaza and its benefactors because of its shared border.

An article in Hamas’ official daily Al-Rissalah claimed: “Indications on the ground show that Cairo…will not allow the Islamic model in Gaza to remain standing due to its ideological ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is being marginalized from the Egyptian political scene at gunpoint….Those who follow Egyptian affairs know full well that Gaza is prone to return to its political isolation. This is the biggest fear of Palestinians living in the Strip, following a year of regional and international acceptance.”17

It would be fair to assess that Gaza’s isolation is Egypt’s ultimate goal, since such an objective would meet Egypt’s interests: to consign Gaza to oblivion and reduce Hamas to its real size.

*     *     *

Notes

1. Assaf Gibor, Maariv-nrg, 2 September 2013.
2. Elhanan Miller, “Hamas used metal darts to kill protesters during Egypt’s revolution,” Times of Israel, 30 April 2013.
3. i24news, 25 August 2013.
4. “Egyptian General: Hamas terrorizing Egyptians,” Times of Israel, 18 July 2013.
5. Avi Issacharoff, “No summer break in the violent Middle East,” Times of Israel, 23 August 2013.
6. Al-Yawm el-Sabei, Egypt, 24 August 2013.
7. Shlomi Eldar, “Has Hamas abandoned Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood?” Al-Monitor, 19 August 2013.
8. Ahmad Aldabba, “With Brotherhood’s fall in Egypt, Hamas faces harsh reality again,” Christian Science Monitor, 27 July 2013.
9. Theresa Breuer, “Closed tunnels could ruin Hamas,” Der Spiegel, 30 July 2013.
10. Ibid.
11. Shlomi Eldar, op.cit.
12. Ibid.
13. Elhanan Miller, “Cautiously Hamas speaks out against Egyptian bloodshed,” Times of Israel, 19 August 2013.
14. Ibid.
15. Theresa Breuer, op.cit.
16. Ahmad Aldabba, op.cit.
17. Elhanan Miller, op.cit.

http://israelagainstterror.blogspot.co.il/2013/10/after-muslim-brotherhood-in-egypt-is.html

Hamas Threatens Egypt, Israel and Palestinian Authority

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

As Egypt steps up security restrictions along its border with the Gaza Strip, Hamas and some Palestinian terror groups have been holding “military parades” in a bid to show that they are prepared for war.

The parades, which saw hundreds of heavily armed militiamen march through the streets, are mainly intended to send a message of warning to Egypt’s new rulers against any attempt to launch a military offensive inside the Gaza Strip.

Some Hamas leaders are convinced that the Egyptians are preparing to launch a military strike against the Gaza Strip under the pretext of combatting terror in Sinai.

However, the show of force by Hamas and its allies is also designed to send a warning message to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Hamas believes that Israel and the Palestinian Authority are directly involved in an Egyptian-led scheme to overthrow their regime and bring Mahmoud Abbas’s forces back to the Gaza Strip.

The parades are also intended to send a warning message to Abbas as to what awaits him and his loyalists if they dare enter the Gaza Strip with the help of Israel and Egypt.

Given Hamas’s growing isolation in the aftermath of the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Cairo and the Egyptian authorities’ severe and unprecedented restrictions along the border, there is no underestimating the threats coming out of the Gaza Strip.

If the leaders of Hamas believe that the Egyptians are determined to undermine or topple their regime, they will not hesitate to initiate a new military confrontation with Israel.

In public, Hamas leaders and members say that the “military parades” are aimed at sending a warning message to Israel, and not Egypt.

But in private, several Hamas leaders and spokesmen admit that the biggest and most immediate threat to their regime is coming from Egypt.

The Egyptian authorities see the threats as being directed first and foremost toward Egypt.

This explains why Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy this week deemed it necessary to warn Hamas of a “harsh response” if it threatened his country’s national security. Fahmy said the response would include “military and security choices.”

Days before the warning, hundreds of gunmen belonging to Hamas’s armed wing, Izaddin al-Kassam, staged a provocative march near the border with Egypt, carrying photos of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and chanting slogans against the “military coup” in Cairo.

In yet another sign of mounting tensions between the two sides, Egyptian border guards stationed along the border with the Gaza Strip have been hurling abuse and threats at Hamas policemen and Palestinian farmers, Palestinians living in the area said this week.

Palestinian fishermen have also fallen victim to the standoff between Hamas and the Egyptian authorities.

Last week, five fishermen were each sentenced by an Egyptian military court to one year in prison for fishing in Egyptian territorial waters.

Earlier, Egyptian naval forces detained and severely beat other fishermen for approaching Egypt’s territorial waters.

Despite the show of force, Hamas would never dare to initiate a military confrontation against the Egyptian army. Hamas will find it easier to fire rockets at Israel than launch terror attacks against the Egyptians.

Hamas is fully aware that such a confrontation would spark a harsh response from the Egyptians — one that would surely lead to the collapse of its regime. Previous confrontations between Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces would then look like children’s games compared to a clash with the Egyptian or any other Arab army.

That is why Israel needs to be prepared for the possibility of another war with Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip.

No Illegal Infiltrators into Israel in August

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

In August no illegal infiltrators from Sudan and Eritrea crossed the border from Egypt into Israel.

In addition, 168 illegal infiltrators agreed to leave Israel on their own volition.

Undercover Police Entangled in Refugee Camp, Killing Three Arabs

Monday, August 26th, 2013

A Border Police unit shot dead three Palestinians early Monday morning during an attempt to arrest suspects in the Qalandiya refugee camp in northern Jerusalem. 11 Arabs were lightly injured from gunfire, in addition to the three dead: Robin al-Abd, 28, Jihad al-Aslan, 20, and Jonas Jachjuch, 19. the Palestinian Authority condemned the killing.

The unit of undercover officers from the Judea and Samaria Border Police, entered the Qalandiya refugee camp before dawn Monday, and their activity there generated violent disturbances and severe clashes between locals and members of the police unit. Dozens of young locals came out of their homes and began hurling stones at the unit, until the gravely outnumbered force was forced to resort to live fire.

Police testimony shows that after the undercover unit had been exposed, the open confrontation with dozens of angry locals posed real and present danger to their lives. An initial investigation revealed that the officers used riot dispersal means, including the Roger rifle, which fires ammunition at lower and thus less dangerous speeds. A security official told Walla: “We are familiar with the report about deaths and the issue is under review.”

It appears that, despite calming messages from the IDF about how the rate of violence on the part of Judea and Samaria Arabs is going down, a third Intifada is still brewing. Last week, a Palestinian civilian was shot dead and two others were seriously injured, while two IDF soldiers were lightly injured during an arrest operation in the Jenin refugee camp.

The Haredi IDF battalion Netach Yehuda and Border Police arrived in Jenin to execute arrest warrants against Palestinian residents. The arrest attempt, much like this morning’s scenario, developed into mass disturbances against the two forces, as dozens of Arabs began throwing stones, grenades and improvised explosive devices at the two forces.

Report: Israeli, US, Jordanian Commandos Operating in Syria

Monday, August 26th, 2013

American, Israeli and Jordanian commandos are currently deployed on the ground in Syria, training and operating alongside the rebels trying to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the French daily Le Figaro reported on Saturday. The report has not been corroborated by any official American, Israeli or Jordanian source.

The newspaper said that according to its sources, the joint operation, led by the CIA, began on Aug. 17, when the commandos joined some 300 Syrian rebels near the southwestern city of Deraa, just north of Syria’s border with Jordan. A second group of commandos reportedly crossed into Syria two days later, en route to training camps set up by the Free Syrian Army near the Jordanian-Syrian border.

According to military sources quoted by Le Figaro, the U.S. is very reluctant to send ground troops to Syria and is also hesitant about arming the rebels, as some groups are affiliated with radical Islamists, and would prefer to train opposition fighters to hold their own.

French experts quoted by the newspaper said that Washington was interested in created a buffer zone in Syria, free of Assad’s forces, while also enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria, which would give the Free Syrian Army an advantage in their efforts to remove Assad from power.

Lebanon Nabs Israeli Who Jumped over Border Fence

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

The IDF has confirmed reports that Lebanese soldiers caught an Israeli citizen who jumped over the border fence near Rosh HaNikra, on the northeast Mediterranean Coast.

His identity has not been released, and it is not known if he is Jewish or an Arab, nor are there any clues regarding his motives.

Israeli army officials are investigating how the man crossed the border without being spotted by soldiers.

Lebanese officials are questioning the man, described as 34 years old.

In Sinai, Egyptian Police on Strike

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Israel’s border with Egypt [Project Sand Timer] is long (266 kilometers), and has enormous strategic importance given what happens on the far side. Though demarcated by a new steel fence, it constitutes a major headache for those charged with keeping Israel safe and secure.

The part-constructed fence already secures part of the border, but (a) it will be months before it is completed; (b) there is already at least one tunnel that brings ‘smugglers’ under it (see this Arab news report from yesterday); and (c) fences are of modest value against attacks by rocket-equipped terrorists.

We have written numerous times about the growing lawlessness of Egyptian Sinai and the danger of having the terrorists essentially in control is a huge one.

Now the Egyptian police, who do whatever it is they do down there, are on strike.

Egyptian police protest in Sinai, Cairo demanding weapons  | Ahram Online , Tuesday 5 Mar 2013

Dozens of police officers across different directorates in Sinai are on strike for the second day in a row. This includes officers in the directorates of Tour Sinai, Ras Sidr, Taba and Saint Catherine. Security personnel are protesting against what they describe as “inhumane and degrading” working conditions. They also demand that low-ranking officers and employees be armed so that they can defend themselves from the recurring dangers they are exposed to while on duty. The officers claim that their lives are in danger as ministry leaders refuse to allow them access to weapons, urging them to maintain self-restraint. They also demand to be awarded excellence bonuses on a regular basis. The officers said that they would be suspending work until their demands are fulfilled. In Cairo, dozens of police officers from the Old Cairo Police Directorate blocked off Salah Salem Street, a major thoroughfare leading to Cairo International Airport, early on Tuesday, bringing traffic flow to a complete halt. The officers were angry at the death of a fellow officer who died in the line of duty as he attempted to stop a bank robbery. They are demanding more access to live ammunition to defend themselves. Security forces managed to coax protesting officers into reopening the road to traffic.

This is not likely to produce a good result.

Visit This Ongoing War.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/this-ongoing-war/in-sinai-egyptian-police-on-strike/2013/03/07/

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