Creating new perspectives since 2009

What Egypt's military spokesman missed out

January 27, 2014 at 12:42 pm

At the end of July, Hamas held a press conference in Gaza in which it presented a number of documents issued by the Palestinian Authority security agencies in Ramallah. The papers revolve around the efforts being made to widen the gap and raise doubts and fear between Hamas and the Egyptian authorities.

They provided Egyptian intelligence with false information and reports alleging the smuggling of weapons from the Gaza Strip into Sinai to cause unrest, sending people into Egypt to support the Muslim Brotherhood and providing stories to the Egyptian media, all of which deigned to “prove” the “conspiracy” being planned by Hamas against Egypt. The documents also accused Hamas members of being involved in several incidents, including the death of 16 Egyptian soldiers in Rafah during Ramadan two years ago.

The content of these documents is available on the internet, so I will only mention one, a “highly confidential” letter written on July 3 this year by the Security Attaché at the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo, Bashir Abu Hatab, to Sami Nasman,‎ Assistant Head of General Intelligence Service for Gaza (based in Ramallah).

The letter reads as follows: “Please note that the officer Ahmad Mansour Dughmush obtained 4 bombs stamped with the Al-Qassam Brigades [the Hamas military wing] seal, and it is widely known that these are manufactured by the Al-Qassam Brigades in Gaza. He obtained these bombs from a source close to him who lives in the Gaza Strip and who took them from his brother, who works for the Brigades. He was able to bring them to Egypt through the tunnels. The officer suggests we use them as evidence linking Hamas to the recent events in Egypt, and we agree. We are currently working on preparing an appropriate mechanism; therefore, I found it necessary to inform you for revision and your opinion.”

Jump forward to September 15, when a spokesman for the Egyptian Armed Forces held a press conference in Cairo in which he spoke about the outcome of the campaign launched with the help of the police against “terrorist cells” in Sinai. While he presented the outcome, he mentioned different weapons’ seizures, including the bombs discussed in the letter to Nasman in Ramallah, as well as “clothes used by the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas”. It is worth noting here that Hamas members do not have a specific uniform.

Over the next two days, a number of security experts, commentators and analysts proceeded to assert that what the army spokesman said leaves no room for doubt that Hamas is involved in the incidents and crimes committed in Sinai. One of these “experts” said that the information given shows that Hamas involvement in the killing of the 16 Egyptian soldiers in Rafah cannot be ruled out, which raises doubts about whether their hands are stained with Egyptian blood. Moreover, Al-Ahram newspaper published a story on September 17 under the headline, “After their involvement in terrorist operations in Sinai, politicians demand the state takes a strong stand against Hamas”. The comments published did not stop at accusing Hamas of supporting terrorism in Sinai, but went as far as to say that there are Palestinian terrorists on Egyptian land and that the Palestinians have become a part of the Egyptian crisis.

This impression is not new; the Egyptian media and politicians did not need these new allegations to place Hamas and the Palestinians on the suspects’ list accused of provoking instability in Egypt. This is both saddening and shameful, but it is an inevitable truth that must be admitted. The only thing that was new in the army spokesman’s speech at the press conference was the evidence he produced.

I have no explanation, though, as to why he did not make a link between what was written in the document announced by Hamas on July 30 regarding one of the PA officers obtaining 4 bombs with an Al-Qassam Brigades seal and between finding bombs with the same specification in Sinai a few weeks later. I also have no explanation for why everyone disregarded the fact that the film shown at the press conference revealed that of the people who were arrested during the military campaign in Sinai, two are Fatah members and security officers for the PA in Ramallah. One of these individuals stated that he is a Second Lieutenant and is due to be promoted to Captain in a few months. Not only that, but finding the Al-Qassam Brigades bombs does not constitute evidence of Hamas involvement in Sinai, just as finding British, American or Russian weapons is not proof that major countries are involved in operations against the Egyptian authorities.

I note these comments for information purposes only. We next have to consider two questions: Can Hamas afford to engage in an armed confrontation with the Egyptian regime? Who would benefit from provoking rivalry or confrontation between Egypt and Hamas?

Translation of the Arabic text which appeared in Shoroukh Newspaper on 19 September, 2013

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.