Any hopes Gaza had of an easing of border restrictions with Egypt, after the election of President Mohammed Mursi, have been dashed in light of this week's violent clash with terrorists at the Rafah border crossing.
Al Arabiya says Hamas has closed the tunnels linking Gaza and Egypt temporarily, following the attack that left 16 Egyptian border troops dead. And Reuters reports that Egypt is now busy trying to seal up the underground passages that it had virtually ignored for years.
After Mohammed Mursi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected Egyptian president earlier this summer, he appeared sympathetic to Hamas demands to lift restrictions on travel out of Gaza and possibly even end the 5-year border blockade. But in return Mursi is said to have told Hamas to crack down on militants using the tunnels to move in and out of Gaza.
Now since the attack, Mursi is promising that Egypt's military will go after terrorists in the Sinai, and one of his first steps was to close the Gaza border crossing indefinitely.
An estimated 35 militants, in Bedouin clothing, stormed an Egyptian military base, killed 16 policemen and soldiers before trying to bust through the border crossing into Israel.
Al Arabiya says Egypt's military believes the terrorists had help from "elements from the Gaza Strip" that apparently launched mortar fire at the Egyptian-Israeli border crossing as the attack was taking place. And at least one Egyptian government official claims some of the attackers came from Gaza by using the underground tunnels. Hamas denies the allegation and condemned the attack as an "awful crime," promising to help Egypt hunt down those responsible. Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed Awad says, "We reject using the name of Gaza (in the context of the attack) without investigation and without finding out who is standing behind it." But a senior Egyptian official says Hamas failed to prevent militants from getting through the tunnels, saying, "After Egyptian blood was spilled, we will not accept words of condemnation, denials or failing to take responsibility."
In the meantime, Al-Ahram newspaper reports that some commentators on Egyptian social media sites are furious that Egypt’s security dismissed Israel’s terror warning, issued last Thursday, as unfounded and as an attempt to sabotage tourism to the area. But one former Egyptian MP told the newspaper Al-Youm A-Sabi, he still believes that it was “a Zionist plot to bring Israel back to Sinai and expel Palestinians to Egyptian lands in Sinai.”
The Jerusalem Post says there is speculation that Egypt will ask to reopen the Camp David Accord to beef up the military presence in the Sinai region. But Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman tells Israel Radio, "There are enough forces in Sinai, it's now just a matter of making a decision." Israel currently allows Egypt to deploy seven battalions in the region even though the peace treaty said it should remain demilitarized. Israel Defence Minister Ehud Barak says, “Perhaps this will be a necessary wake-up call for the Egyptians to take matters in their hands in a more serious way.”
AFP reports that Israel has returned the bodies of "between six and eight" terrorists involved in the attack, to Egypt. But a military official says some of the terrorists had explosives on them which exploded, making it difficult to tell exactly how many there were.