Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Hamas shuts down tunnels in response to kidnap threat against Israelis

Last night Israel issued a warning to its tourist citizens in the Sinai to come home immediately. In response it appears Hamas has shut down the tunnels for fear that a kidnapped Israeli might be smuggled into the strip. The Guardian claims Hamas may have come under pressure from Egypt.
Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip have ordered the immediate closure of all smuggling tunnels along the Egyptian border after a security alert in Sinai.

Hamas, the Islamist movement which controls Gaza, told smugglers to shut down the tunnels last night and then barred them from the area today.

With Gaza under a tight economic blockade from Israel, hundreds of tunnels have been dug under the southern border with Egypt to smuggle in food, fuel, construction materials, cars and even live animals. Hamas has made money on the smuggling business, imposing taxes and importing goods itself.

It is understood the closure is temporary and follows a security alert issued to all Israeli tourists in Sinai yesterday.

The tunnel closure appears intended to stop militant groups bringing in kidnap victims from Egypt into Gaza and could have been due to pressure from the Egyptian government. Hamas officials would not say why the tunnels were shut. more

Hamas facing mounting criticism from other resistance groups for curtailing rocket fire

Middle East Online reports four fighters were killed by Israel yesterday. Apparently tension is rising between Hamas and the other resistance groups who claim Hamas is going soft.
GAZA CITY - The Hamas rulers of Gaza -- the site of a deadly gun battle on Tuesday -- fear an escalation of violence could bring a crushing Israeli response but do not want to be seen by rivals as having given up the armed struggle, observers say.

In recent months Hamas has claimed to have reached an agreement with other fighters to halt rocket attacks on southern Israel, but according to Israeli figures 77 rockets and mortar shells were fired in the first three months of the year.

And on Tuesday, four Palestinians were killed and two wounded in a firefight in central Gaza between Israeli troops and fighters of the Islamic Jihad, a smaller group than Hamas.

There are indications that conflicts are simmering between Hamas and armed groups, who reject the unofficial period of calm that has prevailed since the 2008-2009 Gaza war.

Hamas has done little to test the mostly right-wing Israeli government that came to power a year ago as Israel has warned of massive retaliation should there be a return to the near-daily attacks that preceded the war.

At the same time, however, Hamas faces an internal challenge from groups that have accused it of going soft.

On Monday, Islamic Jihad said Hamas briefly detained four of its fighters to prevent them from attacking Israeli troops, a stinging criticism for Hamas, which views itself as the vanguard of the armed struggle. more