Hamas denies firing rockets, 'regrets' cancellation of Egypt intel visit
The top Egyptian official was scheduled to visit Ramallah and the Gaza Strip on Thursday as part of Cairo's effort to avert a military confrontation between Israel and Hamas.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzouk on Wednesday expressed "regret" over the cancellation of a planned visit to the Ramallah and the Gaza Strip by Abbas Kamel, head of Egypt's General Intelligence Force.The top Egyptian official was scheduled to visit Ramallah and the Gaza Strip on Thursday as part of Cairo's effort to avert a military confrontation between Israel and Hamas.Kamel reportedly called off his visit in wake of Wednesday's rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip on Israel. In response, the Israel Air Force struck 20 Hamas targets throughout the Gaza Strip.The cancellation of the visit is seen as a sign of Egypt's discontent with Hamas over the rocket attacks, which came as Egyptian intelligence officials were holding talks with Hamas leaders ahead of Kamel's visit to the Gaza Strip.Hamas denied responsibility for the rocket attacks, but stopped short of naming the party that launched the rockets, which fell in Beersheba and in the sea next to central Israeli city.No group claimed responsibility for the attack. Some Palestinians in the Gaza Strip said they did not rule out the possibility that the rocket attacks were carried out by terrorists belonging to a small group that is opposed to Egypt's effort to reach a truce agreement between Hamas and Israel."Whoever launched the rockets wanted to embarrass Hamas and scuttle Egypt's mediation efforts," said a Palestinian political analyst in the coastal enclave. "Hamas would not do something like this while Egyptian intelligence officials are in the Gaza Strip and hours before the arrival of the head of Egypt's General Intelligence Force."AdvertisementMohamed al-Zaq, a senior official with the Gaza-based Popular Front Struggle, said he believed someone was trying to drag the Palestinians into a "destructive war." Those who are trying to instigate a war are par excellence criminals," he added."No one is interested in another war in the Gaza Strip," said political analyst Ibrahim al-Madhoun. "It was clear from the beginning that the rocket attacks were not initiated by the major factions."Sources in the Gaza Strip said that Hamas relayed a message to Israel through the Egyptians and the UN that it was not responsible for the rocket attacks.The sources said that an Egyptian delegation headed by General Intelligence officials Ayman Badi and Ahmed Abdel Khaleq, who are currently in the Gaza Strip, succeeded in preventing an all-out military confrontation between Hamas and Israel. According to the sources, the Egyptian officials held intensive talks with leaders of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad immediately after the pre-dawn rocket attacks on Israel.A statement issued by the so-called Joint Operations Room of the Palestinian Resistance factions, a group comprising Hamas and several terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, "rejected all irresponsible attempts to sabotage" Egyptian efforts to achieve a truce with Israel.The groups said that when they carry out any attack, they "do not hide behind any curtain and and announce it in public in the context of their national responsibility."The groups also welcomed Egypt's effort "to fulfill the demands of the Palestinian people" and said they were prepared to "face any Israeli aggression."