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Hamas steps up border security after Sinai attack

Aug. 6, 2012 12:41 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 8, 2012 10:20 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas began implementing a series of security measures in the Gaza Strip on Monday after an attack in the Sinai a day earlier which left at least 15 Egyptian police officers dead.

All smuggling tunnels under the shared border have been closed and extra security personnel have been deployed along the border, deputy foreign minister of the Gaza government Ghazi Hamad told Ma'an.

The Islamist movement placed all security forces in Gaza on high alert after a meeting between Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Minister of Interior Fathi Hammad and leaders from security forces, he added.

The leader of Gaza's security forces Jamal al-Jarrah said they are in constant communication with Egypt to maintain common security interests.

Egypt's military, which still holds many levers of power in the most populous Arab nation, called the attackers "infidels" and said it had been patient until now in the face of the instability in Sinai.

"But there is a red line and passing it is not acceptable. Egyptians will not wait for long to see a reaction to this event," it said in a statement on its Facebook page.

Egyptian media speculation focused on Hamas as being involved in the attack, but experts urged caution.

"We should not do what we always do and rush to conclusions," said Safwat al Zayaat, a military analyst. "No one has provided any proof."

There is full coordination between Egypt and the Hamas government, Hamad said, adding that Hamas will not allow anyone to threaten Egypt's security.

On Sunday, masked attackers carrying machine guns fired a rocket-propelled grenade at police barracks near Israel's Kerem Shalom crossing, killing at least 15 Egyptian officers, wounding seven and kidnapping others, Egyptian security officials told Ma'an.

The attackers then seized two military vehicles and attempted to storm Egypt's border with Israel.

Israel said its aircraft had fired on one of the commandeered vehicles and that the other had exploded at the border crossing. Israeli forces were combing the area and some of the militants had been killed, the Israeli army said.

Egypt closed its border crossing into Gaza overnight, cutting off the sole exit route for most Palestinians at the height of the Muslim-fast month of Ramadan.

Many key goods, including oil, pass through the tunnels, and a prolonged closure could stymie life in the coastal enclave.

Reuters contributed to this report
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