Egypt’s General Intelligence has demanded the extradition from Gaza of three senior members of Hamas’s armed wing Izz A-Din Al-Qassam Brigades for their involvement in a terrorist attack near the Kerem Shalom border crossing on Sunday, a Palestinian daily reported Thursday. A Hamas spokesman denied the report.
One of the three wanted men, Raed Attar, is the commander of the Qassam brigades in Gaza. Attar was involved in the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from inside the Israeli border, also near the Kerem Shalom crossing, in June 2006, according to Hebrew media reports on the Shalit affair.
Israeli officials said the terrorists who carried out Sunday’s attack — killing 16 Egyptian security officers, commandeering an APV and smashing across the border into Israel before their vehicle was blown up by the IAF — were also aiming to kidnap a soldier or soldiers. In initial comments to the media after the terrorists were thwarted Sunday night, the IDF spokesman specified that no soldiers had been kidnapped.
Al-Quds reported that the request to extradite the trio was sent to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh through Mahmoud A-Zahar, a Hamas official in Gaza. An unnamed security source told the daily that the three men are not suspected of perpetrating the attack, but of providing “indirect logistical support” to an extremist group in Sinai that carried it out.
The source would not give Al-Quds the names of the three men, but security sources in Ramallah told the daily that they are Raed Attar, Ayman Nofal, and Muhammad Abu-Shamalah, all of whom are well-known tunnel smugglers in Gaza. The daily reported that Hamas agreed to hand over the men to the Egyptians, but they refused to go voluntarily, citing a fear of being tortured by the Egyptians. The men did agree to be questioned by the Egyptian intelligence inside the Gaza Strip.
Attar, the commander of the Qassam Brigades in Gaza, was reportedly involved in the cross-border infiltration, via tunnels, in which two IDF soldiers were killed and Shalit was grabbed and dragged away into Gaza, where he was held hostage for five years until last October.
Hamas denied involvement in Sunday’s terrorist attack, erected a symbolic mourning tent for the 16 Egyptians, and vowed to assist the Egyptian authorities in their investigation.
Meanwhile, Abdul Dayem Abu-Midin, a Palestinian philanthropist from Gaza, on Thursday pledged $10,000 to every family of the Egyptian victims. He told the Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Information Center that his donation stems from “the love of a Palestinian citizen to a sister-nation.”