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Thursday, January 31, 2008       Free Headline Alerts

Egypt now sees Palestinian incursion as threat

CAIRO — Egypt, struggling to restore its border with the Gaza Strip, sees an emerging Palestinian threat in the Sinai Peninsula.

"Hamas has violated our sovereignty and this is totally unacceptable," Egyptian parliamentarian Hassan Issa said. "This move poses a real threat to Egypt's national security."

Egyptian security sources said Palestinian insurgency groups were using the remote Sinai desert for training, logistics and operations. They said such groups as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees were also expanding cooperation with Bedouin insurgents aligned with Al Qaida in Egypt.

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On Wednesday, the Egyptian state-owned Al Ahram daily reported that five Palestinian insurgents were captured in Sinai, Middle East Newsline reported. The newspaper, quoting Egyptian sources, said the Palestinians were found with sniper rifles and explosives belts and planned to conduct suicide strikes in Israel.

"This is not a new concern," an Egyptian security officer said. "The new element is that the flow of Palestinian operatives into Sinai has grown tremendously over the last few weeks."

Security sources said Hamas, Jihad and PRC have established a logistics network of Bedouins in the Sinai. The sources said the Palestinians also relayed bribes to Egyptian officers who serve in eastern Sinai.

The sources said up to 400 Hamas, Jihad and PRC operatives were seeking to remain in Sinai for operations against neighboring Israel. They said the Palestinians were seeking refuge with Bedouin tribes in central Sinai.

The sources said the Palestinian insurgency presence in the Sinai has expanded in wake of the destruction of the Sinai-Gaza border on Jan. 23. They said up to 500 Hamas and Jihad operatives have infiltrated the peninsula and acquired weapons and advanced communications systems.

This was the second capture of Palestinian insurgents in Sinai over the last week. On Jan. 27, Egyptian security forces were said to have detained Palestinians with weapons and advanced communications equipment in central Sinai. The equipment was meant to monitor Egyptian Army and police communications.

Al Ahram said the latest Palestinian insurgency cell also contained maps with the locations of Israel Army bases near the Egyptian border. The maps also contained assessments of Israeli soldiers at each bases.

The Egyptian border guards were offered thousands of dollars to enable Palestinian insurgents to bring trucks from the Gaza Strip to Sinai. The sources said the border guards allowed at least 20 such trucks to enter Sinai within the first 24 hours of the destruction of the border wall.

Al Ahram reported that the regime of President Hosni Mubarak has decided to erect a new border security system. The system would comprise of a border fence equipped with surveillance cameras and other equipment to "absolutely prevent infiltration, in keeping with the national security of Egypt."

Egypt, which deployed 20,000 troops, has set a Feb. 3 deadline for the return of the Palestinians to the Gaza Strip. At one point, 700,000 Palestinians, most of whom were shoppers, were said to have crossed into Sinai.

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