Cease fire talks in Cairo .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Egyptian security sources on Sunday accused Palestinian gunmen from the Gaza Strip of taking part in the recent attack that killed 31 soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula.
Meanwhile, Egypt has notified Hamas of its decision to postpone the indirect cease-fire talks with Israel that were scheduled to resume in Cairo on Monday.
“The Egyptian authorities have informed us of their decision to delay the talks with Israel because of the events in Sinai,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.
The Hamas delegation to the talks would not be able to travel to Cairo anyway because of the closure of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Sinai.
The spokesman said that no date has been set for the resumption of the talks.
Israeli officials – continuing a policy of saying very little about the Cairo talks – declined to discuss the matter, or whether a postponement of the discussions in Cairo was or was not in Israel’s interests.
Egyptian media outlets quoted the security sources as saying that Egypt would target terrorist bases inside the Gaza Strip as part of its massive crackdown on Islamist groups.
Hamas officials strongly denied the charges, saying no Palestinian from the Gaza Strip was involved in the attack on Egyptian soldiers.
“We have no doubt that elements belonging to Palestinian factions were directly involved in the attack,” the Egyptian sources said.
They said that initial investigations have indicated that jihadist elements linked to al-Qaida, and not Islamic State, carried out the “massacre” with the help of Palestinians inside the Gaza Strip.
The sources claimed that Palestinians belonging to jihadist groups inside the Gaza Strip provided the perpetrators with logistical aid and intelligence. They do not belong to Hamas, the sources added.
The Egyptian authorities have relayed a strongly worded message to Hamas about Cairo’s intention to launch military strikes against the terrorists inside the Gaza Strip, the sources were quoted as saying.
Following the attack, Egypt closed the Rafah border crossing, which was reopened after the cease-fire between Hamas and Israel in late August.
The Egyptian authorities, according to reports, are planning to create a buffer zone along their border with the Gaza Strip.
Egyptian Gen. Sameh Bashadi, an aid to the interior minister, claimed that Hamas’s armed wing, Izaddin Kassam, was behind the killing of the soldiers in Sinai.
Several Egyptian military analysts and columnists have blamed Hamas. Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip expressed deep concern over the Egyptian allegations.
Hamas representative Salah Bardaweel denied that the involvement of his movement or any other group from the Gaza Strip in the attack.
Bardaweel described the charges as fabrications, adding that they were rejected “politically and morally.”
He said that Hamas has no information about the identity of the perpetrators.
Musa Abu Marzouk, another senior Hamas official, denied the allegations as baseless. He said that Hamas does not meddle in Egypt’s internal affairs and is keen on maintaining law and order along the border with Egypt.Herb Keinon contributed to this report.