An Egyptian soldier keeps guard on the border between Egypt and southern Gaza Strip.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As the rest of the world grows unthinkably tolerant of Hamas, its military wing, Izzadin Kassam, has been officially branded a terrorist organization by Egypt. This is a milestone decision and not only because it marks the first time an Arab country dares come out against a “Palestinian resistance” setup dedicated to combat Israel. Hitherto such forthrightness was heresy.
Under the leadership of President Abdel Fattah a-Sisi, Egypt has courageously departed from the predictable pretense of its sister Arab nations that pro forma vindicate Hamas while, behind the supportive façade, fear and deplore it.
Ironically, the Egyptian move comes soon after the European Union began mulling moves to remove Hamas from its list of terrorist outfits (on the bizarre technical pretext that the evidence used to place Hamas there “did not meet European standards”).
In its way, Cairo has underscored Europe’s insincerity and proclivity for appeasement.
This Egyptian stance was by no means adopted for the love of Israel. Egypt has its own compelling grievances against Hamas for collaborating actively with – indeed enabling – the terrorism rife in Sinai.
Although Hamas foremost seethes with genocidal hostility toward Israel, it is part and parcel of the worldwide jihadist offensive. Egypt’s own version of a disengagement from the Gaza Strip is Hamas’s own comeuppance.
Cairo considers Hamas the parent and sustaining partner of the Ansar Bait al-Makdis organization that had been spreading mayhem throughout the Sinai Peninsula (it also commissioned the ambush on Route 12 to Eilat, rocket barrages on Eilat and attempted suicide bombings at Kerem Shalom).
This group, which in November announced its allegiance to Islamic State and has come under the auspices of its self-styled Iraqi-Syrian Caliphate, was founded in 2011 by Gazans, and Hamas was its patron from the outset.
Hamas-ruled Gaza constitutes Ansar Bait al-Makdis’s indispensable operational base. Its ability to function hinges on Gazan backing and logistical assistance.
This is why Egypt has outlawed Izzadin Kassam and why it last year launched a massive project to create a kilometer-wide no-go buffer zone between Sinai and Gaza. As part of its objective to cut Gaza off from Sinai, Egypt has devoted much energy to destroying the vast and intricate tunnel network that facilitates the smuggling of weaponry from Gaza to Sinai as well as back in the other direction.
A broad swath of territory was cleared of any habitation in order to deny terrorists cover for their tunnel-digging and retreats to Gaza for shelter after their attacks.
The latest of these occurred on January 29, when 32 Egyptian troops and civilians were killed in a large-scale onslaught in northern Sinai. The concerted strike was simultaneously accompanied by attacks in Port Said and Alexandria.
This was hardly a unique murder spree. In August 2012, 16 soldiers were killed in Egyptian Rafah, as well as 25 in August 2013 and 21 in July 2014. This is only a partial list.
Gaza’s hub of sedition and insurrection not only affects Israel. The many Egyptian casualties, the bombed oil pipelines, the rampant sabotage, the kidnapping of tourists and much more have led Cairo to recognize that no modus vivendi with the current Gazan powers-thatbe is feasible.
Gaza’s Hamas warlords enjoyed a honeymoon phase while the Muslim Brotherhood (of which Hamas is an offshoot) ruled Egypt. Now, however, Cairo has confirmed openly and boldly what foreign governments and overseas media all know but prefer to whitewash – Hamas has turned Gaza into a nerve center for terrorism, and not exclusively against Israel.
True, Egypt’s current offensive does benefit Israel.
Sinai could become a dangerous new front that Israel cannot afford. It is further a relief to Israel that gunrunning and bankrolling funnels via Sinai might be minimized.
But Hamas’s fanatic reach ambitiously extends beyond Israel. The gangs of firebrand jihadists who roam through Sinai often penetrate via Gaza or are manipulated from there. The same goes for the military-grade weaponry that these Islamist extremists openly deploy.
For telling it like it is, Egypt surely deserves no rebuke but the gratitude of the international community.