Palestinian sources are reporting that two Egyptian tanks crossed the border that separates the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The tanks reportedly stopped short of Palestinian territory but – if confirmed – the reports would be read as a signal that an ongoing Egyptian campaign to root out jihadist infrastructure in the Sinai Peninsula may include direct action against Hamas.
Hebrew-language Israeli media described the operation as an “unprecedented step,” noting it was part of an effort by Egypt to establish a deterrent along the Gaza-Sinai border. Egypt’s security establishment blames Hamas for violence in the country stretching back at least as far back as the 2011 unrest that brought down former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The army also holds the Iran-backed group responsible for a series of spectacular terror attacks that have rocked the Sinai Peninsula in the last year. Hamas’s role in facilitating the transfer of materials and jihadists into the territory has been a constant theme in Egyptian media, and the organization has seen its popularity plummet inside Egypt.
Hamas officials have been scrambling in recent days to dampen tensions with the Egyptian military. Top figures in the organization had lashed out against Cairo, and the group’s leaders – fearing an escalation – had ordered both party
members and local preachers to cease antagonizing the Egyptian army.
Yousef Rizqa, political adviser to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, had earlier today expressed confidence that efforts by Hamas to reduce tensions would avert Egyptian military action against Hamas.
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