April 9, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1837

Egyptian Press Criticizes Hamas for Rafah Border Breach; Breach 'A Grave Threat to Our National Security'

April 9, 2008
Palestinians, Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 1837

Following Hamas's continued breaches of the Gaza-Egypt border at Rafah, aimed at allowing Palestinians to enter Egypt, Hamas has come under harsh criticism from the Egyptian press. The strongest expression of this criticism came from Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit, after Egypt resealed the border to Palestinians; he warned that anyone who tried "to break through the Egyptian border would have his legs broken." Al-Gheit added that the rockets Hamas was firing at Israel "were being lost in the sand in Israeli territory" as well as giving Israel an opportunity to strike at the Palestinians. [1]

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stated that Egypt was negotiating on the issue of the Egypt-Gaza border with the Palestinian Authority, but not with Hamas. [2]

Columnists in Egypt's government papers expressed concern about Egypt's security, claiming that Hamas had planned the border breach in advance so as to provoke a confrontation with Egyptian security forces and also kidnap Egyptian soldiers to exchange them for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. They also hinted at Iranian and Syrian involvement in the border breach, as part of a plan to sabotage efforts to solve the Palestinian problem, and in response to Egypt's position vis-à-vis resolving the Lebanon crisis. The columnists also expressed vehement opposition to the possibility that the Gaza Strip could become an Egyptian protectorate, claiming that Hamas operations served Israel's interests in promoting such a development.

The following are excerpts from some of these columns:

Editor of Egyptian Government Daily: Hamas is Plotting to Undermine Egypt's Security

Editor of the Egyptian government daily Al-Gumhouriyya and Egyptian MP Muhammad 'Ali Ibrahim wrote in his daily column: "I cannot understand what has happened to the Palestinians. They've come to regard Egypt - the only country that helps and supports them - as they regard the Israeli forces that occupy their land and cause them suffering... Today, I learned from reliable sources that the first breach at the Rafah crossing was planned by Hamas's leaders ahead of time, about 10 days ago...

"The Hamas fighters are not satisfied with Abu Mazen's [i.e. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's] way of reaching a permanent and definitive solution with the Hebrew state that will ensure the establishment and continuity of the Palestinian state. This is because the only aim of [Hamas Political Bureau head] Khaled Mash'al and his men is to keep this issue hot, so that regional [forces] such as Iran and Syria can continue playing the card of the Palestinian problem to promote their private interests - that is, Iran's nuclear dossier, the liberation of the Golan Heights, etc...

"The indignity and villainy of Hamas's leaders have reached the point where they cooked up a miserable plan comprising of two parts, one worse than the other. I would not deny [the possibility] that foreign [forces] had some part in it as well, since it will ultimately transpire that its objective is to outflank the Egyptians from the East and to undermine [Egypt's] domestic security... It also cannot be denied that Israel has had no hand [in this plan]. The first part [of the plan] involves the intensification of missile attacks against Israel in response to peacemaking efforts that have appeared on the horizon, with a view fo sabotaging, any conceivable agreement...

"Knowledgeable sources reported that Mash'al had phoned Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Muhammad Mahdi 'Akef in order to coordinate demonstrations in the streets of Egypt calling for jihad and war against Israel - [demonstrations] about which no one should keep silent any longer.

"They [i.e. Hamas] planned to break through the wall with a demonstration by veiled women, knowing full well that the decent Egyptian security forces would never raise a hand against a hungry woman or against a mother seeking food for her children... Unfortunately, however, the women's demonstration was [only] a cover for the subsequent incursion of Hamas thugs who have the blood of their compatriots on their hands - so what was to prevent them from murdering Egyptians?

"The second part [of the plan was] for the Hamas fighters to break through [the border] behind the women [demonstrators], each one following close on a woman's heels - an abominable proximity that contravenes religion. Then [the Hamas members] were to kidnap several Egyptian security personnel and bring them back to Gaza - [a step] which would compel the Egyptians to [pressure Israel] to release Hamas prisoners from its jails.

"The Gaza residents who are fleeing [the Israeli oppression] are treating our people just as they treat Israeli prisoner Gilad Shalit, or the soldiers captured by Hassan Nasrallah's forces in Lebanon in the summer of 2006..."

Egypt Will Not Permit an Iran-Sponsored Hamas

Ibrahim continued: "The tragedy reached its peak when they started hurling stones at the Egyptian security forces - a hateful and despicable act. These stones, which we admired in 1987 when they were used by brave children during the Intifada of the Stones to fight the Israeli occupation... these young boys and girls have since grown up. Those who were 12 then are now 33, and their interests have changed... They have sold their [souls], entrusting their fate to others - whose only desire is to end Egypt's role as one of the most important elements in the region's stability.

"The 'children of the stones' have changed since becoming Hamas fighters. They have forgotten their heroic past, when they went out to fight the occupiers' tanks with stones. They now aim their stones at Egyptian security forces deployed along the borders of a sovereign state... which, humanitarian considerations notwithstanding, do not want to admit those who attack its sovereignty...

"Indeed, the Egyptians are now getting a poor return from the Palestinians for the favors [they have done for them]. [But even] though we have for years seen only ingratitude, it is [still] inconceivable for us to accept an injury to our honor and an attack on our sovereignty.

"Unfortunately, the Palestinians are helping Israel to implement its plan, i.e. to unload the Gaza strip, which has been separated from the Palestinian Authority, and to return it to Egypt... This is why I must stress that a breach of the border will not happen again - whether for humanitarian reasons or for religious considerations. The Palestinians have not acted [appropriately]; [furthermore], they are working for another plan - to forcibly again break through the Rafah crossing [sometime in the near future]... Egypt will never allow the Palestinians to do to the Sinai what they have done to Jordan or Lebanon... If anyone dares to open the crossing by force, he will pay dearly.

"If Hamas hopes that the Muslim Brotherhood will prompt the Egyptian public to identify with it, [they should know that] the Egyptians are too smart to be drawn into a campaign aimed at exporting Gaza, with all its problems, to Egypt, or at settling the Palestinians in Sinai against our will. We did not fight Israel for 30 years for the return of our land and for full sovereignty over [it] only to later hand over it to the Palestinians to settle there, bring their families over, and declare it an independent Hamas republic benefiting from the support of Iran and the [Muslim] Brotherhood as well as Israel's blessing - after Israel finally managed to get rid of that 'headache'... This will never happen..." [3]

The Border Breach is an Attempt by Syria to Distance Egypt from the Lebanese Crisis

In another column, Muhammad 'Ali Ibrahim discussed an interview by Khaled Mash'al on Orbit TV, writing: "Do not trust Hamas, since it is implementing an Israeli plan aimed at ensuring Israel's security; bringing down the Camp David accords through planting other citizens [i.e. non-Egyptians] in Egypt; destroying the PLO in the [West] Bank, [thereby] putting an end to any hope of unification [of the West Bank and] Gaza; and to drive a permanent wedge among Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians...

"We are facing a grave threat to our national security under the guise of protecting the Palestinians, who have been uprooted and are fleeing the siege and Israeli violence... Let me make two comments. First, beware, because the currency used by Gaza residents in the Egyptian Rafah is counterfeit; second, I sense that Syria is trying to create security problems for Egypt in order to force it to give up its role as a partner in [seeking] a solution to the presidential crisis in Lebanon. There are signs that Egypt's insistence on assisting in [Lebanon's] presidential election process has caused Damascus to promote a popular uprising in Gaza, in the hope of diverting our attention from Lebanon to a problem that has become relevant to our own national security..." [4]

Hamas Fighters Can't Tell the Difference Between Friend and Foe

Supreme Council of Journalists secretary-general and former editor of the Egyptian government paper Al-Akhbar Galal Dweidar wrote: "It was not enough for Hamas and its agents to undermine Egypt's sovereignty... They went so far as to resort to using weapons against the Egyptian border patrol, wounding dozens - something they have never done to their Israeli enemies during their conflict with them.

"There is no better evidence of their [i.e. the Hamas fighters'] evil intentions than the Egyptian National Council announcement of [Egypt's] capture of several Palestinians who had penetrated deep into Egyptian territory with weapons and explosive belts. This shows that [the Hamas fighters] can't tell the difference between friend and foe. It is a grave [problem] that proves that some are exploiting the pain of the Palestinian people in order to export anxiety and problems to Egyptian territory - while the Egyptian people are trying to help the Palestinians. This group, which has already abused the solidarity and unity of the Palestinian front, must realize that Egyptian territory is not ownerless, and that [its people's] patience is not boundless..." [5]

Hamas, Israel Have a Common Interest in Wreaking Havoc in Sinai

Khaled Imam, editor-in-chief of the Egyptian government daily Al-Masaa, wrote: "Israel and Hamas clearly have a strong desire to create chaos in Sinai. Whether there is an open agreement between them or whether [it is merely a matter of] common interests, they didn't take into account that Egypt would never, no matter what, permit chaos to be created in its territory. What they are planning and what they are trying to achieve are vain, unrealistic dreams...

"Hamas sees the current situation as an honorable way out of the quagmire into which it has sunk - since the Palestinians in Gaza are under siege, without gas, electricity, or water, and are therefore on the verge of exploding. Hamas' philosophy was to let them explode in the face of Egypt rather than in their own face. The following question arises: If the Palestinians in Gaza were hungry while the Gaza shops were full of food that no one could buy - where did they get the money that they brought with them from Rafah to buy what they needed? Wouldn't it have been more appropriate for them to buy this in Gaza shops? Unless this [whole] migration was prearranged, with Egypt as its [final] destination..." [6]

Egypt Is Forced to Pay for Hamas's Failed Policy

In addition to extensive criticism in the Egyptian press of Hamas's border breach, Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies director Dr. 'Abd Al-Mun'im Sa'id criticized Hamas' failed management of the PA's affairs, as well as its strategy against Israel. In a column in Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party weekly Al-Watani Al-Yawm, Sa'id wrote:

"Hamas's election by the majority of the Palestinian people has invested it with the formidable responsibility of leading the Palestinian people, protecting its interests, developing its abilities, and managing its relations with the world and with Israel. Its military coup against the Palestinian Authority and its [currently] exclusive control of the Gaza Strip have forced it to assume complete responsibility over the Gazans, in financial, social, and security matters.

"However, Hamas has failed to fulfill this responsibility, both after it was elected and following its [Gaza] coup. In fact, it has done nothing but publicly condemn Israel and the PA, on television and in daily communiqués to the world, and to the Islamic Arab countries.

"Hamas has never announced, to the Palestinian people or even to Gaza's residents, its strategy regarding the liberation of Palestine and the defense of Palestinians against Israel's aggression.

"[It follows that,] for Hamas, Israel is not a benign enemy; it has always been a bitter and violent one. Therefore, the assumption that the continued firing of Qassam rockets - which have been harassing Israelis in their daily life - would bring about the liberation of Palestine is obviously an exaggeration.

"Furthermore, an obvious consequence [of this policy] is the great threat to the lives of the Palestinians, as individuals as well as a society - [a threat that may involve] a huge number of casualties. These [numbers of] victims would be acceptable if they were part of a clear and comprehensive strategy aimed at forcing Israel to withdraw. But what has happened is that these rocket attacks have made the world unite with Israel, believing it to be acting in self-defense.

"More importantly, [the firing of rockets] has proven that Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, with no peace agreement with the Palestinians, has made it [i.e. Israel] capable of ruling over Gaza and over the lives of [its residents] with even greater flexibility than when Gaza was under actual Israeli occupation. However, Hamas [deliberately] chose a strategy aimed not at winning the conflict with Israel, but at winning the conflict with the rest of the Palestinians [i.e. outside of Hamas].

"The rockets, [which are being used] as a means of opposing the peace process and applying pressure [on it], are not for pressuring Israel, but for gaining popularity among the Palestinians...

"The problem of Gaza is too great to be [relevant] only to the Palestinians. It has gradually become relevant to the Egyptians as well, and Egypt has been forced to pay for Hamas' policy. [This is] despite the fact that Hamas never sought Egypt's advice regarding it, Egypt had no part in formulating it, and Egypt clearly disagrees with it... Does Hamas want to draw Egypt into a series of wars that Egypt never wanted?..." [7]

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 8, 2008.

[2] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), February, 2008.

[3] Al-Gumhouryiya (Egypt), January 27, 2008.

[4] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), January 28, 2008.

[5] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), January 28, 2008.

[6] Al-Masaa (Egypt), January 27, 2008.

[7] Al-Watani Al-Yawm (Egypt), January 29, 2008.

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