'Hamas refusing to hand over el-Arish terror suspects'

Egyptian requests for Gaza-based Hamas gov't to arrest men accused of carrying out attacks in Sinai have been rebuffed, 'al-Masry' says.

Masked Hamas terrorists 311 (R) (photo credit: Mohammed Salem / Reuters)
Masked Hamas terrorists 311 (R)
(photo credit: Mohammed Salem / Reuters)
The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip has refused several Egyptian requests to hand over Palestinian terrorists alleged to have participated in a recent attack on a police station in the Sinai city of El-Arish, Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm reported on Monday.
Citing a "well-placed Egyptian source," the report said that Egyptian authorities have provided evidence to Hamas implicating the men who Egypt says escaped back into Gaza via tunnels.
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With each request, Hamas officials gave different excuses for not handing over the wanted men, al-Masry al-Youm quoted the sources as saying.
On Monday, Egypt presented another official request for Hamas to arrest the Palestinians. Of the 15 terrorists who attacked and attempted to take over the el-Arish police station, 10 were identified by Egyptian authorities as Palestinians, Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported.
This week Egypt launched a large military operation to rein in armed Islamic elements operating in the Gaza Strip, including al-Qaida affiliated terrorists. The operation required Israeli approval as the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries limits the number of troops Egypt may move into the Sinai.
An Egyptian security official said that the operation is expected to last a number of months, according to the report, and that it would eventually proceed to Rafah, home of the sole border crossing between Sinai and the Gaza Strip.
The official added that as the widespread crackdown began, Palestinians were observed making their way back into Gaza via tunnels in the Rafah region.
On Sunday, the Egyptian military deployed 1,000 soldiers and hundreds of armored personnel carriers in the Sinai with the aim of uprooting terrorist infrastructure and restoring order to the peninsula which was lost following the revolution in Egypt in February.
One person was killed, and 16 others were arrested in Sinai on Monday as part of the raid launched by Egyptian troops and policemen, state television said, according to the French news agency AFP.
The Egyptian troops exchanged fire with the al-Qaida suspects wanted by authorities, an official said.
According to the al-Masry al-Youm report, during a meeting between Hamas officials and Egyptian security authorities to discuss Palestinian reconciliation earlier this year, the Egyptians brought up the issue of dealing with criminals and infiltrators from Gaza making their way into the Sinai.
Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.