Egypt’s Role in Gaza Attack
London-based newspaper quotes sources who say Egyptian intelligence minister deliberately misled Palestinian organization about IDF intentions; Hamas sources say this is why movement’s compounds were not evacuated
Egypt “collaborated” with Israel in its Gaza attack and lulled Hamas into thinking the Israel Defense Forces would not attack Gaza, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi reported Sunday.
The report, based on Arab diplomatic sources, claims that Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman told a number of Arab leaders that Israel was intending to attack the Gaza Strip in a limited manner in order to pressure the Palestinian organization into agreeing to a renewed ceasefire.
According to the paper, Hamas was given a different message.
The sources quoted in the article asserted that Suleiman had told Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, during her Thursday visit to Cairo, that it was important to avoid civilian casualties during an military operation in Gaza, in order to avoid inciting the Arab public.
Hamas sources close to former Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar told the paper that Egypt told Hamas on Friday evening that Israel had agreed to begin negotiations about a potential ceasefire and would not attack Gaza before Cairo had attempted to settle the issue.
These sources noted that, in general, Hamas’ internal ministry orders the evacuation of its security compounds following any Israeli threat of operative action. They had not done so this time based on Egypt’s assurance that Israel wouldn’t attack and based on the assumption that an IDF attack would not be launched on Saturday.
Egypt expressed formal censure of Israel’s military operation in Gaza, via a message to the Israeli ambassador in Cairo, but also emphasized that Hamas was responsible for the deteriorating situation.
A formal source from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry told the ambassador that Israel must stop its military action in Gaza.
On the other hand, in a press conference Saturday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit held Hamas responsible, saying that “Egypt warned for a long time, and someone who ignores warnings is responsible for the outcome.” He added that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had also sent a warning to Hamas.
Earlier, Gheit had said, “we suspected this would happen. Hamas didn’t stop shooting rockets at Israel.”
A formal announcement by the administration in Cairo stated that “Egypt will continue and try to create an atmosphere that will allow for a reinstatement of the ceasefire and reconciliation between various Palestinian groups.”