An Egyptian official has denied a Jerusalem Post report that Hamas has established forward bases and rocket production facilities in the Sinai Peninsula in an effort to protect them from Israeli air strikes.
The Post revealed Sunday that Israel has called on Cairo to increase its efforts to restore order in Sinai and to prevent attacks, but the Egyptian military has held back from dismantling the Hamas infrastructure in the peninsula.
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"No one can ever bring in military tools or erect missile bases in Sinai. Egypt would not allow such a breach to its sovereignty," Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm quoted an Egyptian official as saying in response to the Post report.
The official added that Sinai is completely under the control of the Egyptian authorities and that the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel remains in place.
He further supported his refutation of the existence of Hamas bases and
weapons production facilities in Egypt by pointing to the presence of UN
peacekeepers in northern Sinai who, he claimed, would be aware of such a
development were it to occur.
More than a dozen Egyptian army battalions allowed into Sinai with
Israel’s permission (required because of limits placed on Egyptian
forces there under the peace treaty) are still operating there, although
with limited success in stopping terrorist activity and arms smuggling
to the Gaza Strip.
Recent arms smuggled into Gaza have included advanced weaponry stolen
from Libyan military storehouses such as Russian- made shoulder-to-air
Israel’s primary concern with Sinai is that it is being used by
Palestinians to launch attacks into Israel while taking advantage of the
open southern border.
The IDF has beefed up its forces along the border and recently
established a new regional brigade that is responsible for defending
Eilat and nearby areas.
On Thursday, the IDF bombed a car
traveling in northern Gaza and killed a senior Aksa Martyrs Brigades operative who the army said was plotting an attack.
The terrorists were supposed to cross from Gaza into Sinai and then into
Israel, similar to the attack that took place in August when eight
Israelis were killed.
The bombing of the car is part of an IDF understanding that since it
cannot operate in Egypt it needs to stop such attacks while they are
still in the planning stages in the Gaza Strip.