Security officials in Israel believe anti-aircraft missiles originally smuggled into Gaza from Syria have since made their way into Egypt’s Sinai via Hamas operatives supporting Muslim Brotherhood or Al Qaeda forces, which have been using the desert as a base to attack the caretaker Egyptian regime that ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, Israel’s Channel 2 reported, citing security sources.
Terrorists on Tuesday bombed a gas pipeline in the Sinai that connects Egypt’s supply to Jordan. At dawn, an armed group wearing masks blew up the gas pipeline from a distance by detonating an explosive device, and then fled into the desert. Military personnel on the ground and in an Apache helicopter chased the attackers, but could not detain them.
A report in Egypt’s Al Masry al Youm newspaper said Egyptian Apache helicopters were attacked by rebel forces in the Sinai with anti-aircraft SA-7 missiles, which Israeli security forces have been tracking for the past two years from the Syrian regime to Hamas storehouses in Gaza and, apparently, now into the hands of Muslim Brotherhood-allied forces along the Israel-Egypt border.
According to the Egyptian newspaper, the attack was carried out by what were likely Al Qaeda-related forces, armed with assault rifles and M-16s, which they fired from moving vehicles and motorcycles at an Egyptian military headquarters in Rafah.
This past weekend, Egyptian security and armed forces arrested nine alleged terrorists in the Sinai desert operating under the command of al-Qaeda leader Ramzy Mowafy. Mowafy was among 234 prisoners, including former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who escaped from the Wadi al-Natrun Prison during the country’s January 2011 revolution.
The nine terrorists confessed to a plan to unite all of the region’s armed movements under the banner of the al-Egypt Free Army, founded by Mowafy to declare Sinai an Islamic emirate that would secede from Egypt.
Last week, Maj. Gen. Osama Askar, commander of Egypt’s Third Army, accused Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, of smuggling 19 Grad rockets into Egypt, after soldiers intercepted the rocket shipment along the Suez-Cairo highway, which Askar charged was on its way to Cairo to help the Muslim Brotherhood.
Israel had authorized the Egyptian army at the beginning of last week to deploy two infantry battalions in the Sinai Peninsula, despite the fact that an appendix to the peace treaty between the two countries forbids an Egyptian military presence in the area. The infantry battalions entered Sinai to support the armored, engineering and special forces that are already operating there with Israel’s authorization.