Egypt Cancels Israel-Hamas Talks, Shutters Rafah, Plans Anti-Smuggling Wall After Mass Car Bombing
After a terror attack on Friday killed at least 30 Egyptian soldiers in the northern Sinai, Cairo has declared a state of emergency in the area, closed down the Rafah crossing from Gaza, canceled indirect cease-fire talks between Israel and Hamas, and now says it will build a wall to block smuggling with the coastal enclave, Israel’s NRG News reported.
Egyptian air force helicopter forces said they had killed five militants in strikes in the vicinity on Sunday, Israel Radio reported. Additionally, there in a sunset to sunrise curfew in the area affecting over 100,000 residents, according to Army radio.
On Friday, militants mounted a complex, combined attack at an Egyptian base using what appeared to be a suicide car bomber, rocket-propelled grenades and roadside charges. Despite Hamas denying involvement, Egyptian security officials charged that attackers utilized smuggling tunnels from Gaza in perpetrating the attack, leading to the breakdown in relations.
Hamas is closely tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, which, under the rule of Mohammed Morsi, was deposed last year.
Hamas leaders warned that the strip was on the verge of an “explosion” if the passage with Egypt remained closed. Israel, meanwhile, has continued allowing humanitarian aid and construction material to enter the enclave.
Egyptian President al-Sisi, in a national address at the funerals of the slain troops on Saturday, said his country was in the midst of an “extensive war” that would not be won anytime soon, according to the BBC.
“There is a big conspiracy against us,” Sisi said, citing “foreign powers who are trying to break Egypt’s back.” The attack, in his words, was meant to to “break the will of Egypt and the Egyptians as well as the will of the Egyptian army, which is considered a pillar of Egypt.”
He called on Egyptians “to be aware of what is being hatched against us” and to be “vigilant and steadfast with the army and the police,” Israel’s Ynet News reported.
On Sunday, The Egyptian al-Masri al-Youm daily said the government of al-Sisi ordered the construction of a 13km security wall, reaching from the Rafah area to the Mediterranean coast, quoting Maj.-Gen. Sameh Seif Yazal, who it said was a strategic and military expert.
On October 22, a cell of what the IDF said were Bedouin drug smugglers wounded two IDF soldiers, one of them a female officer, in an attack using an anti-tank rocket and small arms fire on an army jeep patrolling along the Egyptian border.