Following the deadly attack on an Egyptian checkpoint in Rafah, which left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead and 7 injured, the Rafah crossing into Gaza has been closed for an unspecified period of time. Meanwhile President Mohamed Morsy vowed to take full control of the Sinai in response to the attack and declared an official three-day mourning period.
“The perpetrators and their collaborators will pay a dear price,” Morsy warned on Monday. “The blood of the martyrs will not go to waste.”
The 16 soldiers were killed on Sunday evening when gunmen attacked a checkpoint in the town of Rafah near the border with Gaza. According to witnesses, the attack was carried out during sunset prayers using bladed weapons before the men managed to confiscate military weaponry and vehicles. Once they acquired vehicles, the militants made for the Egypt-Israeli Karm Abu Salem border crossing.
The Muslim Brotherhood has speculated that Mossad, Israel’s secret intelligence service, may have been responsible for the attack. In a statement released on its website, the Brotherhood said, “this crime may well be the work of Israel’s Mossad, which has sought to abort the revolution ever since its launch, and which issued instructions to Israeli citizens in Sinai to leave immediately, just days ago.”
Accusations of involvement in the attack were also extended to Hamas, putting a dampener on recently flourishing relations with the group. Over the past month Hamas has been building support with Morsy, trying to reach agreements regarding the Gaza border blockade, imposed by Israel and supported by Egypt over the past five years. Recently an agreement was reached to open the Rafah border crossing and supply the Gaza strip with power and gas needs. However following the attack Morsy was quick to shut the crossing.
Speaking to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, a senior Egyptian official criticised Hamas saying, “after Egyptian blood was spilled, we will not accept words of condemnation, denials or failing to take responsibility.” The deputy leader of Hamas, Moussa Abu Marzouk, on Monday referred to the closing of the border crossing on his Facebook page as “collective punishment.” Hamas has promised to crack down on “radical Salafi groups” such as Magles Shoura al-Mujahddin, and to shut down the underground tunnels which are used for the cross-border smuggling of people, weapons and drugs, among other things.
The attacks highlight the relative lawlessness of the Sinai. The situation is exacerbated by the lack of a serious security presence in the area, largely a result of restrictions imposed on Egypt by the Camp David agreement between Egypt and Israel, which severely limits the number of troops and the type of weaponry allowed in the region.