Intelligence updates reaching Israel reveal that Hamas plans to follow up its attack on the Egyptian-Israel-Jordanian gas pipeline Saturday, Feb. 5, with more large-scale operations against Israel, using Egyptian Sinai as its launching-pad.
Since the uprising began in Egypt two weeks ago, more than 1,000 Hamas gunmen have infiltrated North Sinai from the Gaza Strip and seized control of the region. They were followed by Al-Qaeda cells which redeployed from Iraq in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has established a command center in North Sinai for coordinating its operations with the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo.
Israeli officers serving in this border sector told DEBKAfile's military sources that the situation there was getting dangerously out of control: Hamas was giving free rein to lawless elements – not only Bedouin smugglers but other international networks, some working hand in glove with Somali pirates to smuggle into Israel armed criminal gangs posing as asylum and job seekers, prostitutes and vast quantities of drugs.
Those sources believe that Hamas and al Qaeda terrorists are sneaking into Israel from Sinai under cover of the swelling illegal traffic.
Hamas' attack on the gas pipe near El Arish which cut supplies to Israel and Jordan proves to have been its opening shot. The investigation found that two separate Hamas teams, reaching their target in four new minivans, had conducted not one but two explosions – one hit the Sheikh Zuweid station and the second blew up a one-kilometer long section of the pipe. The Egyptians have not yet started repairs.
Sunday, Feb. 6, Egyptian soldiers caught another team of five armed men on their way to blow up the pipeline's southern section to keep it inactive for a lengthy period. Three were Palestinian Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip and two Bedouin hired as accomplices.
Monday, Feb. 7, a second armed attack on the Egyptian police station in El Arish turned out to have been carried out by an Al Qaeda-linked cell from the Gaza Strip.
DEBKAfile's military sources report that Hamas and Mumtaz Durmush, head of Jaish al-Islam (The Army of Islam) which is linked to Al Qaeda, have struck a deal for Hamas to transfer the Islamists to Sinai and provide them with the weapons and explosives for attacking Israeli patrols along the Egyptian border and Egyptian security forces posted there.
Not only are those jihadist cells ranged on Israel's southern doorstep but it is only a matter of time before they walk through the door along with the Palestinian fundamentalists of Hamas, security sources ward.
Moving them south has given Hamas two benefits: the Jaish al-Islam hard core which challenged its rule of the Gaza Strip has been transferred outside the enclave and secondly, the Palestinian group has help for its attacks on Israel.
It is now confirmed that the 22 Hizballah terrorists, whose escape from a Cairo jail last week was organized by Hamas, were escorted to the Gaza Strip by a heavily-armed Hamas guard which Egyptian forces failed to intercept.
The breakout also released Muslim Brotherhood activists. For Lebanese Shiite group, its chief objective was the release of Sami Shehab, one of Hizballah's top operational commanders. His outfit has joined the Hamas-led front taking shape for a concerted terrorist campaign against.
A senior security source reported that the Egyptian strength, though reinforced by the two battalions of 800 soldiers which Israel permitted to enter the peninsula, is totally inadequate for extending control in all parts of the peninsula. Most of that strength has been deployed in Sharm el-Sheikh and along the eastern bank of the Suez Canal, leaving the Gaza Strip and the border with Israel at the mercy of terrorists and smugglers.
Although Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the outgoing Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, commented on the turmoil in Egypt Monday, Feb. 7, neither referred to the dangerously out-of-control situation in Sinai nor did they mention the urgent need to address the threat to Israel's southern border.
Netanyahu recalled the 2009 demonstrations in Iran where, he said, unlike in Egypt, "there were no talks, the people were simply killed on the streets."
Gen. Ashkenazi spoke of the rise of radical strength in the region. He admitted that the IDF was taken by surprise by the uprising in Egypt but, he said, no intelligence service has a crystal ball.
DEBKAfile's military sources note that no one needs a crystal ball to see the terror and lawlessness closing in on Israel from its border with Sinai. It is not 1,200 kilometers away like Iran, but already present under the noses of those speakers.