Sunday's Rafah attack was a violation of Egypt's sovereignty that cannot be overlooked, writes Dina Ezzat
Click to view caption|
The funeral of the victims of the Sinai attack was held in Cairo, at the site where former president Anwar El-Sadat was assassinated
The killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers at the Rafah border crossing has led high ranking security and intelligence personnel to criticise President Mohamed Mursi for what they say is his overly lenient attitude to Hamas.
Sources who spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly on condition of anonymity say that Egypt's security and intelligence establishment were opposed to the warm reception Mursi accorded Hamas leaders Khaled Meshaal and Ismail Haniyeh, and were unhappy about the relaxation of security controls along Egypt's border with Gaza. Security chiefs have argued that the increasing influence of Jihadist groups in Gaza, their ability to recruit affiliates in Sinai and to operate in the Strip outside Hamas's control, constitutes a serious threat to Egyptian sovereignty.
In the blame game that is playing out between the presidency and security and intelligence bodies over who bears responsibility for allowing Sunday's attack to happen, the security agencies appear to have the upper hand.
On Monday Egypt revoked an earlier presidential decree that had allowed Palestinians to pass through Egyptian ports without first acquiring a visa.
Rafah, the only non-Israeli controlled Gaza border crossing, was immediately closed. No date has been set for its reopening.
"Sinai's security has been violated for 18 months now. It is time to end this untenable situation," said one security source.
Limits placed on the deployment in Sinai of personnel and equipment by the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty are compounding the problem, say Egyptian officials, though they add that Israel has agreed to an increase in the number of security officers.
Egypt has already arrested a number of suspects thought to be linked to the Rafah operation. Though all the detainees so far are either Egyptian nationals or Palestinians the involvement of other Arab nationals in the attack, says one security source, has not been ruled out.
Egyptian authorities acknowledge they received advanced warnings from both Israel and the US about a possible attack on Rafah. They also say more security and intelligence cooperation is expected in the coming weeks as intelligence operatives attempt to identify militants who might be planning future attacks.
Meanwhile, Cairo is considering what action can be taken to curtail smuggling through the cross-border tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.
International NGOs have said repeatedly the only way to halt smuggling is to end the siege that Israel has imposed on Gaza since Hamas took control of the Strip in 2007. Israel's cordoning of Gaza's 1.7 million civilians is in direct violation of international humanitarian law.
In recent weeks Egypt had promised a series of measures to help ease the suffering of Gazans. Today, say sources, all such plans have been suspended in the face of evidence that Jihadists from Gaza were involved in the Rafah attack.