Hamas units infiltrating as Egyptian forces are transferred from Gaza border
Tuesday, February 1, 2011 E-Mail this story Free Headline Alerts
GAZA CITY — Egypt has withdrawn most of its security forces along the border with the Gaza Strip.
Security sources said the Egyptian Interior Ministry has ordered the transfer of hundreds of security officers from the Sinai-Gaza border. They said the officers were deployed to El Arish and Rafah in an attempt to protect government and security facilities from Bedouin attackers. At least 12 people have been reported killed over the last 24 hours.
Security sources said the absence of Egyptian patrols has sparked Hamas infiltration into Sinai. "The border is only being guarded on the Hamas side — not on the Egyptian side," a security source said.
Battles were reported between Egyptian security forces and Sinai gunmen throughout Jan. 29. They said Bedouins, demanding the release of their relatives, attacked Egyptian security installations in El Arish, Rafah and Sheik Zuwaid.
At one point, an explosion breached the wall along the Sinai-Gaza border. The sources said security forces and Bedouins exchanged automatic gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire.
Until recently, Egypt had deployed more than 750 security officers along the 14-kilometer border with the Gaza Strip. The sources said the lion's share of the border force was withdrawn by Jan. 29 and that Egyptian patrols had ended.
"Most or all of the [Egyptian] border posts have been abandoned and Hamas was believed to have moved near these positions," the source said.
The sources said Hamas units were believed to have been facilitating the smuggling of fuel and weapons from Egypt.
"The smuggling has been slowed down over the last few days because of the Bedouin fighting," the source said.