Palestinians have expressed concern that Sunday night’s terror attack along Israel’s border with the Sinai would hinder efforts to lift Egyptian restrictions imposed on residents of the Gaza Strip.

Egypt’s decision to shut the Rafah border crossing in the aftermath of the attack drew sharp criticism from Palestinians.

Musa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official, called the decision “collective punishment.” He vehemently denied that some of the terrorists had emerged from the Gaza Strip.

Hamas and other Palestinian groups, meanwhile, dismissed claims about the involvement of terrorists from the Gaza Strip in the attack, which resulted in the death of 16 Egyptian soldiers.

Hamas deployed hundreds of policemen along the border with Egypt to prevent terrorists from infiltrating into the Gaza Strip from Sinai, Gamal Jarrah, a top Hamas security commander announced.

He said the Hamas government had also issued orders to close down all the underground tunnels along the border and to do their utmost to help reveal the identity of the attackers.

The Hamas government and some Palestinian groups hinted at Israeli involvement in the attack with the aim of driving a wedge between the Palestinians and Egypt.

Hamas security officials insisted that none of the terrorists who carried out the Sinai attack had come from the Gaza Strip. However, the officials did not say who they believed was behind it.

A spokesman for the Hamas government claimed the attack was an Israeli “attempt to tamper with Egyptian security and drive a wedge between the Egyptians and the residents of the Gaza Strip.”

The spokesman said allegations about the involvement of Palestinians in the terror attack had been aimed mainly at inciting the Egyptian people against the residents of the Gaza Strip and the Hamas government.

“This is a despicable crime that only serves the interests of the Zionist enemy,” the Hamas spokesman said.

“We believe that Israeli agents were behind the attack.”

Another Hamas official pointed out that the attack came only days after a “successful” meeting in Cairo between Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy.

At the meeting, the two agreed on a series of measures designed to ease travel restrictions imposed on Palestinians.

Haniyeh and Morsy also agreed that the Rafah border crossing would be open for 12 hours a day to facilitate the travel of Palestinians.

“This attack is aimed at destroying the achievements gained by Prime Minister Haniyeh’s visit to Cairo last week,” the Hamas official said. “We hope that our brothers in Egypt would not fall into the trap.”

Shortly after the attack, Haniyeh held an emergency meeting of his cabinet and top security commanders to discuss its repercussions and ways of avoiding a confrontation with the Egyptians.

Following the meeting, Haniyeh expressed readiness to assist the Egyptians in investigating the attack.

Haniyeh also phoned the director of Egypt’s General Intelligence Force, Murad Mawafi, and offered his government’s help in capturing the culprits and those who had sent them.

“We are prepared to help in exposing the identity of the perpetrators,” said Hamas legislator Mushir Masri.

Denying the involvement of Palestinians, Masri accused “suspicious and malicious” parties of being behind the attack, without identifying them.

The Islamic Jihad organization in the Gaza Strip also denied involvement, saying the attack served only the “Israeli occupation.”

Another group, Al-Jama’ah Al- Islamiya [The Palestinian Group], claimed that Israeli “intelligence forces” had been behind the attack.

Tarek Zumar, a spokesman for the group, claimed that Israel was behind all recent terror attacks against the Egyptians “because it wanted to make changes along its border with Egypt.”

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