The army has moved a large amount of military equipment and personnel into Sinai, following last week’s attack in the Sinai border city of Rafah. The Government has also closed the Rafah border crossing into Gaza indefinitely, after earlier allowing the crossing to operate in a limited capacity.
The military buildup is unprecedented since peace with Israel was forged, with troop numbers and weaponry in excess of those allowed under the Camp David accords. According to an activist in North Sinai, Ahmed Abu Draa, M60A3 tanks have been sighted in the town of Sheikh Zweid.
The decision to beef up security in the Sinai is part of a major attempt by the Government to crack down on what they are calling ‘terrorists.’ As part of this initiative the Government closed the border completely yesterday, after allowing crossings from Egypt into Gaza for two days previously.
Abu Draa told the Daily News Egypt that illegal tunnel crossings between Rafah and Abu Selim have been destroyed by the army and that others have been filled in by locals. However, he maintained that some tunnels remain open and that smuggling has continued since the attacks last week.
Israel’s blockade on Gaza has created a dependency on imports, both legal and otherwise, from the Sinai. Closing the crossing and the tunnels is likely to further negatively impact Gaza and raise tensions with Egypt.
The decision to shut both the crossing and the tunnels stands in contrast to the agreement reached between the Hamas leadership and Morsy late July, where both parties agreed to lift restrictions on the crossing and for Egypt to supply Gaza with power and gas needs.
The head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Murad Muwafi was retired after it came to light that he had prior knowledge of the attack, received from his Israeli counter-parts. The fact that such a high-level official had warning of the attack has raised suspicion as to possible involvement of high-level officials or governments who may have a reason to benefit from a breakdown in Gaza-Egypt relations. The Muslim Brotherhood hinted at the involvement of Israel in carrying out the attack saying that “this crime may well be the work of Israel’s Mossad.”