Egyptian authorities on Monday presented an official request to the acting government in Gaza to arrest several armed Palestinians who participated in a recent attack on the Sinai police station in the city of Arish and returned to Gaza by way of tunnels. However, the authorities in Gaza have so far failed to respond to the Egyptian request.
A well-placed Egyptian source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Egypt has made the same request several times, accompanied by evidence of the Palestinians’ involvement, but without any success. On each occasion, the Gaza authorities had different excuses for not giving up those held responsible for harming Egypt’s security, said the source.
The Hamas delegation that participated in Palestinian reconciliation sessions earlier this year met recently with Egyptian officials at the offices of the Egyptian intelligence, where the two sides discussed joint security procedures along the border. During the meetings, the Egyptians discussed their vision for dealing with criminals and Palestinians infiltrators from Gaza.
Security sources revealed that Palestinians were observed passing through the tunnels towards Gaza after a security crackdown that included police and army units.
Security officials confirmed the campaign, which began in Arish and will spread out to include all of Sinai, and which does not have a timetable for completion. The aim of the operation is to close down criminial and insurgent activity throughout northern Sinai, and arrest armed militants and jihadists, which are estimated to be between 1200 and 1300 in strength.
A security official said that the campaign is expected to continue for three to four months, indicating that in Arish alone it could take 20 days to arrest dozens of wanted men. Following Arish, the campaign will proceed to the cities of Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah.
Criminals earlier escaped to areas in Sinai’s rugged interior, in particular the mountainous region of Gebel al-Halal.
Translated from the Arabic Edition