08/08/2012, 00.00
EGYPT - ISRAEL

Egyptian air strike on Sinai. At least 20 dead

Helicopters and jets have bombed the village of al-Arish, where radical Islamists who killed 16 Egyptian border guards were in hiding. A test for President Morsi. Israel calls for more security and emphasizes the presence of global radical Jihad in the Gaza Strip. Hamas on the defensive.

Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Egyptian security forces, aided by helicopters and fighter jets fired missiles killing 20 Islamist militants after an attack three days ago against an Egyptian checkpoint, and the deaths of 16 border guards. A military commander stationed in the Sinai confirmed that the affected area is the village of al-Arish, where the Islamist group was in hiding.

The military offensive is ongoing and is a test for the new president Mohammed Morsi. The area in question includes Rafah which is the only point of contact for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip with the outside world. But the passage is also used to smuggle goods and weapons to attack Israel.

Israel is calling for greater Egyptian control and security on Islamist groups that do not obey even Hamas, the rulers of the Gaza Strip. To ensure control, Morsi must be tough with these radical Islamist groups, risking the anger and discontent of radicals who support him and Muslims in general.

In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt attributed the attack three days ago to an Israeli "conspiracy". But an Egyptian security officer has stressed that the action was down to Islamist militants operating in the Sinai, with radicals crossing from Gaza.

Nitzan Nuriel, former head of counterterrorism in Israel, speaking to Radio Israel, says he is convinced that "militants from the global jihad are joining terrorist actions in the Gaza Strip and in Sinai, and that this is very, very problematic."

Israel and Egypt's suspicions and accusations are likely to further isolate Hamas, the radical group in power in the Gaza Strip. Hamas immediately condemned the attack three days ago, calling it "terrorism" and said that "the Palestinian resistance groups have pledged to fight only against the Israeli occupation and they launch their operations only from within the Palestinian territories."

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