GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — The attack on a Sinai police station that killed 16 Egyptian officers on Sunday was an attempt to strain relations between Egypt and Gaza, political analysts said Monday.
“What happened in Egypt was a crime and organized terror meant to drive a wedge in Palestinian-Egyptian relations. It is possible that external hands are interfering with Egypt after Muhammad Mursi became president,” Gaza-based analyst Mustafa al-Sawwaf told Ma’an.
Palestinians have no interest in attacking Egyptian forces, but Israel has been unsettled by the improvement in relations between Gaza rulers Hamas and Egypt’s recently elected Muslim Brotherhood president, al-Sawwaf said.
Egypt’s former President Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown by a citizen revolt in Jan. 2011, had played a key role in maintaining Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip, but Mursi has pledged measures to ease the blockade and held several high-level meetings with Hamas.
Al-Sawwaf said some parties within Egypt and at an international level were uncomfortable with Hamas’ friendly relations with Mursi. Hamas has condemned the Sinai attack and vowed not to let anyone threaten Egypt’s security.
Faysal Abu Shalha, a Fatah MP in Gaza, said he hoped Mursi would still implement his pledges to aid Palestinians in the besieged enclave.
But Akram Atallah, a political analyst based in Bethlehem, said he feared residents of Gaza could pay a heavy price for the deaths of the Egyptian officers, particularly if militants in Gaza were involved in the attack.
Mursi had promised to extend the opening hours of the Rafah crossing but Egyptian security officials said the Egypt-Gaza border was indefinitely closed in the wake of the attack.
Attallah told Ma’an he suspected Israel was involved in the attack. He said Israel knew about the raid and noted that it had advised its citizens to leave Sinai days earlier.
He added that Israeli forces assassinated a man in Gaza earlier on Sunday claiming that he was involved in a plot “to execute a terror attack against Israeli civilians via the Israel-Egypt border.”
Hamza Abu Shanab, a Gaza-based analyst, said the Sinai attack was an opportunity for Mursi to cancel Egypt’s 1979 peace agreement with Israel.
The Camp David agreement limits the number of soldiers Egypt can deploy to Sinai, Abu Shanab noted, and so Mursi must ask Israel’s permission to enlarge its force in the peninsula.
An Israeli refusal would be embarrassing as Tel Aviv has called on Cairo to tighten its grip on Sinai, Abu Shanab added.