Senior Hamas official Salah Bardawil announced on Sunday that his movement would agree to close all the tunnels along the border between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, provided that Cairo officially and permanently opens the Rafiah border crossing for traffic.
Speaking during a press conference, Bardawil said that the tunnels are “a means the Palestinian people need to deal with the security fence around Gaza and to deal with the blockade.” He added that closure of the tunnels, which are often used by Gaza-based terrorists to smuggle weapons and terrorists to and from Sinai, can only be done if the Egyptian side agrees to permanently open the Rafiah crossing for transfer of goods and people.
Egypt has only agreed to open the crossing at Rafiah for limited time periods. The tension in the area has been on the rise, especially since last week when terrorists from Gaza carried out an attack in the Sinai, killing 16 Egyptian officers.
The terrorists likely entered Egypt through the smuggling tunnels. After the attack last week, Egypt began to seal off the smuggling tunnels.
Bardawil referred to the terror attack and said that Hamas is in regular contact with the leadership in Cairo, and has expressed its full readiness to cooperate with Egypt to find those responsible for the attack. He also claimed that “the only factor which has an interest in being involved in an attack like this is the Israeli occupation.” Hamas’ Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, made similar accusations against Israel after the attack.
Bardawil said that neither Hamas nor its leadership in Gaza have received a message from Egypt which blames says that terror elements in Gaza are for the attack. “We have not received any information that Palestinians were involved in this criminal act,” he said.
Bardawil also claimed that Hamas has “strong and solid evidence that Israel is trying to harm the security of Egypt and the Egyptian leadership, because it sees the new regime as a threat to the Zionist enterprise.” He accused Israel of “spreading rumors against Gaza and hurting Hamas’ image.”
Cairo last week ordered a huge military and police force into the Sinai to arrest the terrorists who were responsible for the attack on the Egyptian officers. The terrorists then attempted to infiltrate the border into Israel near the Kerem Shalom crossing but were foiled by the IDF.
Israel has warned that Palestinian Authority Arab terrorists have been migrating from Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula to set up terrorist training camps, and have begun launching operations from the region.