The Hamas terror group said Sunday it was increasing security along the border between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula to prevent any perpetrators of a deadly attack on Egyptian security forces from crossing into the coastal enclave it controls.
The Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported that Hamas Deputy Interior Minister Tawfik Abu Naim said that the group had tightened the border “to prevent any cases of wanted fugitives attempting to sneak into Gaza from Egypt.”
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the Friday attack during which jihadists attacked several Sinai checkpoints with car bombs and heavy gunfire in a coordinated assault.
The Egyptian military said it killed 40 of the assailants and that the attack killed or wounded 26 soldiers, without providing a death toll. Media reported that 23 soldiers and security personnel were killed in the attack.
Naim and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh both offered condolences to the families of the Egyptian soldiers slain in the attack.
Haniyeh declared Hamas’s commitment to improving ties with Egypt and visited a memorial site to those killed in the attack set up by the local Egyptian community in Rafah city, the report said.
IS has been leading a deadly insurgency that has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since the Egyptian army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and cracked down on his supporters.
On Saturday the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said that four of those who took part in the Sinai attack were former members of Hamas.
According to Mordechai, the four were previously members of Hamas’s military wing, but had left the group to join terrorists in Sinai. He did not say where the information had come from.
Mordechai, in a Facebook post, said this fact showed that Hamas is not actually helping Egypt fight Sinai’s jihadists but rather “enabling the free passage of terrorist elements between Gaza and Sinai and vice versa.”
A high-level Hamas delegation spent nine days in Cairo earlier in June, as part of an effort by the terrorist group to improve relations with Egypt, strained since the overthrow of Morsi. Hamas was affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Agencies contributed to this report.