|Egyptian soldiers and armored vehicles operate |
to demolish all homes and other buildings in a
500-meter wide corridor, creating a "security zone"
along Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip, October 2014.
(Image source: PressTV video screenshot)
05 November '14..
Under Hamas's rule, terrorist groups in Gaza are currently trying to acquire a foothold in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, and Hamas is trying daily to resurface in West Bank.
Recent events in Sinai have placed Hamas on a collision course with Egypt, and threaten further instability in the region.
Egypt finds itself threatened by Al-Qaeda-inspired jihadi organizations that use Gaza -- under Hamas rule, a nest of weapons and terrorism -- as a base of operations.
These jihadi groups often attack the Egyptian state in the Sinai Peninsula, then, with their weapons, move back into Gaza through underground tunnels to escape Egyptian security forces.
Hence, Egypt continues to block underground smuggling passages linking Gaza and Sinai as quickly as it can find them.
On October 24, terrorists launched a major attack in Sinai in coordinated assaults. They targeted Egyptian security personnel in the Al-Arish area of north Sinai, near Gaza. The attack represented a blow to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and his quest to stabilize Egypt.
The car bomb, and subsequent gun attack, killed 33 Egyptian soldiers and resulted in a staggering number of casualties.
Egypt declared a state of emergency in north Sinai, closed its Rafah border crossing with Gaza, and proceeded to evacuate and destroy all homes and farm areas on the Egyptian side of the border, to create a 500-meter wide security zone.
In the aftermath of the terror attacks, President Sisi blamed "foreign powers." Egyptian media reports cited security officials who claimed that the terrorists were trained in Gaza, and that Palestinian elements were involved.
These acts, in turn, had a direct effect on affairs between Hamas and Israel.
Cairo placed its mediation role between Israel and Hamas on hold. As the Rafah border crossing has been sealed shut by Egypt, for an unknown period, Hamas members from Gaza cannot now cross into Egypt for talks.
The closure of this border by Egypt means that talks on reconstruction for Gaza, and for coordinating the entrance of goods to rebuild the Strip are on hold, thereby increasing the pressure on, and isolation of, the Hamas regime.
Hamas, for its part, has denied any role in the Sinai attacks, and has attempted to dodge Egyptian fury by highlighting its efforts to prevent Gaza-based terrorists from acting in Sinai.
Whether or not Hamas's denial is sincere, it is no secret that Hamas has forged links with Salafi-jihadi groups that travel between Gaza and Sinai. In the past, such links have been used by Hamas to "outsource" terrorism against Israel, in a way designed to cover up that the attacks have originated from Gaza.
In recent days, after a Palestinian projectile attack targeted southern Israel, Israel also shut down two border crossings with Gaza.
Hamas quickly arrested a number of suspects to prevent further Israeli counter-measures. Yet no matter how much Hamas attempts to distance itself from smaller terrorist groups in Gaza, the mere fact that under Hamas rule, multiple terror entities can flourish and arm themselves, in an environment conducive to jihad, places Hamas in worrisome place.
All the while, according to Israeli security assessments, Hamas is also attempting to construct terrorist cells in the West Bank. In its home turf of Gaza, Hamas is continuously rebuilding its rocket supplies, and in the Fatah-controlled West Bank, Hamas is attempting to resurrect terror cells. These efforts, however, have been unsuccessful, due to Israel's ongoing intelligence control and nightly counter-terrorist raids by the Israel Defense Forces.
Hamas also has a hand in unrest around the Temple Mount site in Jerusalem, according to Israeli assessments.
The dynamics that led to the long conflict this summer between Israel and Hamas have not disappeared, and neither has the jihadi terrorism that still seeps out of the Gaza Strip in all directions.
Understanding this triangle of "Egypt - Gaza - Israel" is key to unlocking the significance of current regional events. The more that Gaza-linked terror groups threaten Egypt, the more the Egyptian government will seek to isolate and punish Hamas. A distressed Hamas, struggling to initiate reconstruction efforts, is more likely to try to break its isolation through a terrorist provocation against Israel, even if this attempt takes an indirect form, through a proxy terror group.
Hamas's dark influence continues to cast a shadow on the region, raising tensions from Sinai to the West Bank, and starting a new countdown to the next showdown.