Cairo sources say Egypt has evidence suggesting Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades facilitated Sinai terror attack. Egypt's Morsi visits troops in peninsula, promises to use 'grip of steel' to crush terrorists-
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi visited the city of el-Arish in North Sinai Friday, as his military continued to hunt down the terrorists responsible for the Rafah border attack on Sunday.
Sunday night saw a large group of terrorists ambush and kill 16 Egyptian soldiers at the Rafah border crossing, en route to a terror attack in Israel.
The IDF foiled the attack, intercepting the terrorists as they were trying to breach the Kerem Shalom crossing.
Since Monday morning, Egypt has been engaged in a widespread manhunt for the terrorists. The campaign has seen unprecedented Egyptian military forces enter the peninsula, including hundreds of soldiers, dozens of armored vehicles, tanks and missile batteries, as well as helicopters.
This is the heaviest military presence by Egypt in the peninsula since it signed its peace treaty with Israel. Cairo officials stressed that the operation was coordinated with Jerusalem.
According to Al-Jazeera, Morsi promised to use "a grip of steel" to stop the terrorists running rampant in Sinai. "We will not rest until we finish our mission," he said.
Arab media reported that the widespread operation is not without its difficulties: Over the years, as the Sinai terror infrastructure grew, the various radical organizations have carved out hiding places in the area that are unknown to Egyptian intelligence, to which they have now fled.
On Wednesday, in a major shake-up of his security forces, Morsi appointed a new national intelligence chief, dismissed the governor of northern Sinai and ordered the replacement of the Military Police chief.
So far, Egyptian media reported that over 60 gunmen have been killed.
A senior Egyptian security official stationed in Sinai told AFP the military acknowledged that they "face an elusive enemy that had the advantage of the peninsula's formidable mountain and desert terrain."
The operation "will be gradual… The geography, the desert and mountains, will make this difficult," he said.
A senior Egyptian official said that Cairo has evidence of a clear link between Hamas and the terror attack, the London-based Arab newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported on Saturday.
The source said that the terrorists used Hamas-controlled smuggling tunnels in Gaza Strip to cross between Gaza and Sinai.
On Thursday, Egypt demanded that Hamas turn over three Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives and three Army of Islam militants that it believes were implicated in the terror attack.
Hamas has offered no official response to the demand.
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat's source stressed that Cairo did not hold Hamas government responsible for the attack, but added that "some elements in the movement" – mostly affiliated with Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades – had knowledge of the attack, or of those who sponsored it.
"We expect Hamas government to seek out those who trained the terrorists and gave them weapons," the official said.
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