The weekend’s deadly attack on the Egypt-Israel border by Islamic militants with purported ties to Gaza spells trouble for the territory’s Hamas rulers.
Hamas had lobbied Egypt’s new president, a fellow member of the region-wide Muslim Brotherhood, to end Gaza’s five-year-long border blockade by throwing open a shared border crossing that is Gaza’s only gate to the world. Instead, one of the first steps President Mohammed Morsi took after Sunday’s attack was to slam the Gaza border crossing shut indefinitely.
Egypt’s military said the attackers had the help of Palestinian militants, saying “elements from the Gaza Strip” aided them by shelling the Egyptian-Israeli border crossing with mortars as the attack was taking place.An Egyptian government official charged anonymously that at least some of the attackers came from Gaza, infiltrating through smuggling tunnels under the border.
Hundreds of tunnels run under the 15-km Gaza-Egypt border, dug over the years to evade border restrictions and move contraband, including weapons and militants.
Morsi pledged that now, Egypt’s military will go after the militants in the Sinai, a move that could reinforce Gaza’s isolation.
Since taking office, Morsi has been careful to avoid the impression that he puts the interests of fellow Muslim Brothers, including Hamas, above those of Egypt. After Sunday’s attack, he is under even greater pressure to clamp down on Islamic militants seen as a threat to his country’s national interests.