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News Analysis: Sinai key in Egypt's ties with Hamas, Israel

By Marwa Yahia, Li Laifang, Tian Dongdong (Xinhua)

14:03, August 12, 2012

CAIRO, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- Egypt on Saturday opened temporarily Rafah crossing for a second day to only allow Palestinians to return to Gaza, after a four-day closure due to a terrorist attack on a military checkpoint in Rafah last Sunday which killed 16 Egyptian soldiers and injured seven others.

The Rafah crossing -- the only direct one of the enclaved Gaza to the outside -- was closed indefinitely on the Egyptian side after the deadly attack. The Islamic Hamas movement who controls the strip has urged Egypt to reopen it.

Egypt continued its operation on Saturday to eliminate hideouts of radical militants in north Sinai. President Mohamed Morsi visited Al-Arish on Friday for the second time in less than a week, vowing to restore the security and stability in the area.

No group has claimed responsibility for the recent fatal attack. Hamas denies Gaza has anything to do with it.

Analysts believe terrorists from the strip have infiltrated into the area through illicit underground tunnels in the border area. The incident has had some negative effects on the relations between Egypt and Hamas since Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood was elected as Egypt's first civilian president.

Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haneya visited Egypt and talked with Morsi in July, in hope of more support from Egypt.

Egypt also lifted some restrictions on the Palestinians to travel to Egypt and provide Gaza badly needed fuel supply to generate power.

"Rafah's attack will have negative impact on Egypt-Hamas relations," Talaat Musallam, a Cairo strategic and military expert said.

"Rafah is the only active pass for Gaza. The longer its closure is, the more negative impact on Egypt-Hamas relations there will be," added the expert.

Despite the exceptional opening on Friday and Saturday, Egypt has not announced the date of its normal opening.

Egypt has moved to destroy hundreds of border tunnels used for smuggling goods.
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