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Egypt plans Gaza intervention if Sinai crisis continues

Oct. 3, 2013 12:10 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 11, 2013 4:56 P.M.)
EL ARISH, Egypt (Ma'an) -- The Egyptian army has established a precautionary plan for military intervention in the Gaza Strip if attacks on Egyptian troops in the Sinai Peninsula intensify, Egyptian security officials said Wednesday.

Officials told Ma'an that Egyptian reconnaissance planes had entered the Gaza Strip's airspace and examined a number of locations in Rafah and Khan Younis to be targeted if military attacks against Egyptian troops intensify in Sinai.

Egyptian aircraft could also target vehicles which travel across the border area delivering smuggled goods, sources added. More smuggling tunnels could also be destroyed, and sources highlighted that "all options are open."

According to Egyptian military sources, the ongoing attacks in Sinai are carried out by organizations based both in Sinai Peninsula and in the Gaza Strip.

Certain militant groups in the Gaza Strip, according to Egyptian officials, are "behind the violence" in Sinai, including Ansar al-Sunna, which has ties to Hamas, as well as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, among others.

As a result, sources argue that in order to maintain control over the Sinai, the Egyptian army has no choice but to shut down all smuggling tunnels and strike targets in Gaza if further red lines are crossed.

"The Egyptian army does not believe the population of Gaza is involved in the violence in Sinai, but certain factions strongly support Sinai groups. The tunnels play a major role in the communication between both sides," a senior Egyptian official told Ma'an.

"In addition, Hamas, although its involvement is limited, is responsible for maintaining control of the smuggling tunnels as well as the factions operating in the coastal enclave," he added.

Hundreds of people have been killed and more than 2,000 arrested across Egypt in the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood since Aug. 14, when police forcibly dispersed two protest camps in Cairo's Rabia al-Adawiya Square.

The protest camps had been set up in opposition to the Aug. 3 coup by the Egyptian military, which overthrew democratically elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi following mass protests against his leadership.

In the months since, the Egyptian military has stepped up a campaign against militant groups operating out of the Sinai Peninsula.

The Egyptian military has accused Hamas, the current rulers of the Gaza Strip, of being connected to the violence and of having ties to deposed President Morsi.
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