Thursday, February 14, 2008


Israeli general staff sees Hamas bid to provoke war with Egypt

TEL AVIV — Military sources said the General Staff has been examining crisis scenarios between Egypt and Israel in wake of the Hamas capture of the Gaza Strip. They said Hamas has sought to provoke a confrontation through attacks on both Egypt and Israel and the use of the Sinai Peninsula as a launching pad for strikes.

"It is clear that Iran and Syria are pushing the Hamas regime to spark a regional crisis, particularly between Egypt and Israel," a source said. "This is also being supported by the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo."

The sources cited the Hamas destruction of the Sinai-Gaza border in late January as a strategic move by the Palestinian regime to exert regional influence. They said Hamas sent hundreds of operatives to Sinai to facilitate weapons smuggling, organize insurgency cells and plan attacks on Israel as well as Israeli tourists in the Egyptian peninsula.

Israel has also determined that Egypt was increasingly ignoring the 1979 peace treaty. The sources said Egypt deployed 750 troops in the eastern Sinai without consulting Israel. They said at least 1,500 Egyptian soldiers were now stationed along the 14-kilometer Gaza-Sinai border.

The sources said Egypt has also requested the deployment of utility helicopters and ground radars along the Sinai-Gaza border. Israel has enabled some of the Egyptian platforms to reach eastern Sinai.

"The next year will be filled with many security challenges, and the Israel Defense Forces will have to be prepared to face them," Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi told senior officers on Monday. "The IDF is prepared and ready to extend its activity as needed according to the decisions made."


The sources said some members of the General Staff have concluded that the military must capture large parts of the Gaza Strip and destroy the Hamas regime. The generals were said to have warned that unless the regime was destroyed, Hamas could succeed in efforts to spark a regional war.

"At the end of the day, the continuing fire will obligate us [to conduct] a wide-scale operation in the Gaza Strip," Israel Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkedy said. "Terrorists on the [border] fence and ongoing rocket fire is intolerable. We find this unacceptable."

"We need to topple the Hamas regime," Tsachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said. "We need to liquidate its leaders without any artificial differentiation between those who wear explosive vests and those who wear diplomatic vests."

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