An Israeli general has said that there is “clear information” which shows that Hamas is providing support to the ISIS-affiliate in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, which carried out a series of mass coordinated attacks on Egyptian forces on Wednesday.
Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, told Al Jazeera that Israel possesses “clear information that Hamas is supporting the Sinai Province group, which belongs to ISIS” and was responsible for Wednesday’s violence. More specifically, Mordechai explained that Hamas had provided weapons and logistical support, saying, “We have examples of Hamas commanders actively taking part in this assistance.” He added that “Wael Faraj, a battalion commander in Hamas’s armed wing, smuggled wounded [fighters] from Sinai to the Gaza Strip.” Egypt has long accused Hamas of aiding attacks in Sinai, especially as Hamas is a strong supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was deposed by President al-Sisi in 2013.
Egypt’s military said that at least 70 terrorists carried out Wednesday’s simultaneous attacks, which targeted numerous army checkpoints in northern Sinai, bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip. The group which carried out the attacks, Sinai Province, is thought to be a manifestation of the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group, which last year pledged allegiance to ISIS. Since al-Sisi’s rise to power, the regime in Cairo has been the primary target for Ansar. However, the group has also made clear that it is committed to attacking Israel. 18 months ago, two rockets were fired by the group on Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city.
The IDF announced yesterday evening that Route 12, which runs close to the Israel-Egypt border will be temporarily closed from 5am this morning, as a precautionary measure. Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered the closure on the advice of IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot. Meanwhile, Haaretz says that Israel is intensifying its intelligence gathering in the area and Israel Radio reports that drones are being used to observe activity across the border.