Smoke rises in Egypt's North Sinai as seen from the border of southern Gaza Strip with Egypt July 1, 2015. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas security forces heightened security measures along the Gaza-Sinai border, Hamas national security chief Tawfiq Abu Naim said on Saturday, a day after a deadly attack left at least 23 Egyptian soldiers dead in the northern half of the Sinai.
Abu Naim said the increased security measures are focused on preventing “any infiltration operations or smuggling of wanted people.” Egypt has long maintained that Islamists militants move between Gaza and the Sinai.
In June, a Hamas delegation and Egyptian officials met in Cairo, where they reportedly discussed ways to improve security situation along the Gaza-Sinai border. Since the delegation returned to Gaza, Hamas has started building a buffer zone along the border.
Hamas also publicly expressed its sympathy with Egypt after the attack. Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh visited a mourners’ tent set up by Egyptians living in Gaza.
“The leadership of [Hamas] offers its condolences to Egypt’s leadership and people,” Haniyeh said, according to al-Rai, an official Hamas publication. “We affirm our solidarity and complete support for Egypt during this trying time.”
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on Saturday. Islamists and the Egyptian army have been fighting each other in the Sinai for several years.
Egypt's Christians, forced to flee homes in north Sinai due to ISIS, receive aid at a church
Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai on Saturday said four former Hamas militants, who are now associated with the Islamic State, participated in the attack against the Egyptian soldiers, and accused Hamas of providing Islamist militants freedom of movement between the Sinai and Gaza.
“Hamas is not actually helping Egypt to uproot terror in the Sinai,” Mordechai said in a statement.
Hamas did not respond to Mordechai’s charge.
Hamas officials hope that if the security situation along the Gaza-Sinai border improves, Egypt will undertake measures to ease the humanitarian situation such as reopening the Rafah crossing.
Since the ouster of former Egyptian President Muhammed Morsi in 2013, the crossing has largely been closed.