Hamas condemns border attack
Hamas offers security coordination following Sinai killings, reports Khaled Amayreh from Ramallah
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An ambulance ferries the dead and wounded in Rafah, Netanyahu and Barak at an Israeli military checkpoint close to the attack; mourners wail in Cairo
Hamas has condemned the murder of 16 Egyptian soldiers near the border with the Gaza Strip and vowed to enhance security coordination with Egypt to prevent further attacks.
Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority announced three days of mourning in solidarity with the families of the victims.
In the wake of the attack Hamas said it would monitor the activities of Jihadi groups more closely. It then accused Israel of planning and executing the terrorist attack.
Israel, Hamas officials argued, was determined to undermine relations between Gaza and Cairo following the election of an Islamist president in Cairo.
"We know that Israeli hands are lurking in the dark to spoil our ties with our brothers in Egypt. Unfortunately, there are always certain groups that can be infiltrated by the Israelis to carry out their dirty work," claimed Ismail Haniyeh, head of Gaza's Hamas-run government.
Haniyeh, who met with President Mohamed Mursi and other leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo last week, proposed a joint Egyptian-Palestinian security committee be formed to deal with all security matters.
The killing of the soldiers, said Haniyeh, was a "diabolical crime" that only enemies of Palestine, of Egypt and of Islam, could have perpetrated.
"Egypt's security is our security, Egypt's stability is our stability and Egypt's prosperity is our prosperity," he said.
Earlier, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt accused Israel of responsibility for the attack.
Israel dismissed the Brotherhood's accusations. "If the accusers looked themselves in the mirror," said an Israeli government spokesperson, "they wouldn't believe themselves."
"These people [the Jihadis] are gullible and could easily be used by the Israelis," claimed a Hamas security official.
Hamas's officials say the authorities in Gaza are working closely with their Egyptian counterparts to determine whether any of the attackers were residents of Gaza. The Egyptian army has voiced suspicions that at least some of the attackers entered Egypt from the Strip via cross-border tunnels.
Ahmed Bahr, deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said Hamas was sealing underground tunnels to prevent fugitives who might have been involved in the attack from fleeing to the Strip.
The authorities in Gaza, he said, were ready to help Egypt re-establish security across the Sinai though they would not condone the permanent closure of tunnels linking Gaza to Egypt since they remained "a vital artery" for the people of Gaza.
Observers in occupied Palestine speculate that the Rafah terrorist attack will force Hamas and Cairo to work out a formula capable of balancing Egyptian security concerns with Gaza's desperate need for consumer products from Egypt. If that is the case, then Egyptian officials are likely to press for a long-term solution to the problem which will only be achieved if a deal can be concluded away from Israeli pressure.