Hamas is moving its headquarters from Damascus to Egypt, and the terror group is strengthening itself in the Sinai, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee Monday.
He also noted that the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Hamas sprung, also has become a more powerful force in Egypt since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. The Prime Minister stated his concern about the inability of the provisional military regime in Egypt to exercise sovereignty in the Sinai, which borders Israel and from where Bedouin and Hamas terrorists smuggle weapons from Iran, Sudan, Syria and elsewhere into Gaza.
Al-Qaeda also has brought 400 terrorists into the area, according to an Egyptian official quoted by an Arab news agency,
The Prime Minister confirmed previous reports that Hamas supreme leader Khaled Mashaal has pulled out of Damascus, where his presence and welcome by Syrian President Bashar Assad is an additional worry for him in the face of the continuing uprising.
The vacuum of power in the Sinai has been illustrated by “the two gas explosions that occurred there” this year, Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Knesset committee. “Global terrorist organizations are interfering, there and their presence is increasing because of the geographic connection between Sinai and Gaza.”
The Sharon government agreed to pull out of Gaza following the 2005 expulsion of nearly 10,000 Jews in the area. Agreements with Egypt on security in the Sinai began falling apart after Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza four years ago.
Following the Operation Cast Lead counterterrorist campaign at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, Israel relied on American and European guarantees to monitor the transfer of goods and merchandise from the Sinai to Gaza, but these also have eroded. The opening of the Rafiah crossing this past Saturday has further harmed security.
The de facto dominance of Bedouin tribes and allied terrorists in the Sinai has set the stage for further stockpiling of advanced arms by Hamas and for plotting terrorist attacks at tourist and holy sites in Egypt.