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Identity of Sinai Attackers Stirs Controversy | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A picture taken from the Rafah border of the southern Gaza Strip with Egypt shows smoke billowing in Egypt’s North Sinai on July 8, 2017. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Ramallah, Gaza – Unconfirmed news about the participation of former Hamas members in the ISIS’ attack in the Sinai Peninsula that killed at least 23 Egyptian soldiers stirred up debates in Palestine and Egypt.

Social media accounts of ISIS supporters reported that three persons from Rafah, south of Gaza strip, were former members of al-Qassam brigades and participated in the attack. The members were recognized after Egyptian army posted their pictures and later announced that their families had identified them.

Both Egyptian and Palestinian media outlets reported the news without any official sources commenting on the matter. Yet, sources said later on that what has been posted was not accurate. The sources also said that the families mentioned didn’t announce anything.

If the reports that Palestinians participated in the attack were true, Hamas will be in hot waters especially after it had pledged to monitor the borders. In addition, Egyptian army’s reports that extremist members from Gaza were part of attacks against Egypt will be confirmed.

Sources close to the matter in Gaza stated that despite intensified measures taken by Hamas, some extremist members are able to leave Gaza and join ISIS in Sinai.

Hamas increased its monitoring of the border and deployed more troops. It also began establishing a buffer zone with Egypt.

Head of Hamas’ political bureau Ismail Haniyyeh said that the movement increased its measures on the border to ensure the borders are not infiltrated. During his visit to Egyptian community in Gaza, Haniyyeh expressed his condolences and ensured that further measures will be taken to control the border.

Hamas denounced the attack earlier in the day in Egypt’s Sinai as a “terrorist” assault.

Hamas’ spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the group considers the attack in Sinai “a criminal, a terrorist, and a coward attack that doesn’t target Egypt only, but the security and stability of the entire Arab nation.”

Observers believe that Hamas’ relationship with Egypt had improved recently, as the movement vowed to prevent any aggression against Egypt launched from Gaza. Yet, the Sinai attack will increase pressure on Hamas that is aware that such operation will damage its image and measures taken concerning the siege on Gaza Strip.

The movement offered its condolences to the Egyptian leadership and people.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned in his name on behalf of the State of Palestine and its people the terrorist attack targeting a security center on Friday in North Sinai.

Abbas confirmed Palestine’s standing alongside Egypt and its leadership, headed by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, in their war against terrorism.

“The Palestinian president, while condemning these vicious attacks carried out by hired terrorists against the Egyptian army and security forces in Sinai, affirms that he is confident that these crimes will not undermine Egypt’s determination in its war against terrorism and fight by all available means,” said the presidency statement.