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Hamas Rushes To Limit Damage To Egypt Ties After Sinai Terror Bust

Gaza-based Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar lashed out earlier this week at unnamed “Palestinian security institutions” that have been transferring “fabricated information” to Egyptian media in order to undermine relations between the Iran-backed terror group and Cairo. The declaration is the latest in a series of moves by Hamas leaders, who have been scrambling to halt a downward spiral in relations between the Iran-backed terror group and Egyptian security services:

“Some Palestinians who work for, or previously worked in, Palestinian security institutions deliberately undertook these actions, ignoring the historical relationship between Gaza and Egypt,” Al-Zahar said during a conference on Egyptian-Palestinian relations. Al-Zahar did not name names, but said that Egypt and Hamas “knows them.”

The Tower reported earlier this month that the Egyptian army and Hamas are locked in a kind of media-driven cold war. Hamas officials used Hamas outlets to blast Egypt for preventing goods from getting into the Gaza Strip and for destroying the smuggling tunnels that Hamas relies on to evade Israel and Egypt’s closure of the territory. Egyptian officials retaliated by leaking to Egyptian outlets that they had linked Hamas to an August 2012 attack in the Sinai Peninsula that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers.

In his interview, Zahar specifically emphasized that no link had yet been announced.

Even if Hamas managed to dodge blame for the August 2012 attack, Egyptian security officials have already linked the group to multiple campaigns inside Egyptian territory. Egyptian forces on Monday arrested 25 terrorists belonging to Al Qaeda and Hamas who were operating in the Sinai Peninsula. Egyptian media sources reported that the terrorists were carrying dozens of weapons, among them an anti-tank RPG launcher, ammunition, and satellite phones.

The arrests followed a recent interception by the Egyptian military of large quantities of fabric used for military uniforms and destined for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Authorities suspect fundamentalist Islamic groups planned to use the fabrics to produce fake Egyptian army and police uniforms, which would then have been used to conduct attacks against Egyptians on Egyptian soil.

The more or less open battle between Hamas and the Egyptian army has domestic implications for Egypt, where it is one issue among many causing friction between the military and the country’s Muslim Brotherhood-linked President Mohamed Morsi.

[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Wiki Commons]