In an unsurprising move, Hamas rejected the proposal by Egypt to end the war with Israel in the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Arab-Islamic protests, attacks, and riots from Taipei to Paris demand condemnation and cessation of Israeli military actions. Fighting from both sides continues. Why Hamas rejected the proposal and where this leaves Egypt portend a bloody future in Gaza.
According to Lebanese political sources close to the group and referring to the Egyptian proposal, “Hamas opposes a long-term truce.” Instead Hamas prefers a short and specific truce, immediate Israeli troop withdrawal, and foreign observers at the Rafah crossing point. While it does not oppose a specific truce, the Israeli side demands a lasting halt in rocket attacks before any discussion of a troop withdrawal. What’s more, foreign observers stationed at Rafah avoid addressing seriously the weapons flow in tunnels underneath the Egypt-Gaza border, especially in the Philadelphi corridor.
According to various sources, the number of tunnels has increased five to six-fold since 2002, with many enhanced in size and sophistication. A security problem even under Israeli-control of Gaza, smuggling across the border is also a chief source of income for the many Bedouin tribes on the Sinai Peninsula, who have felt discriminated against within Egypt. To address the central issue of Egypt-Gaza border security, Western and Israeli diplomats have discussed placing an internationally-assisted technical monitoring system to help stop arms smuggling to Hamas. Acquiescing to some U.S. assistance Egypt, however, has voiced concern over its territorial sovereignty and opposed stationing an international force on its soil.
This leaves Egypt in an unenviable position, especially as a leader within the Arab-Islamic world. Influenced by global outcries to negotiate a settlement with Hamas and criticized by the West (including the United States), the enormity of Egypt’s dilemma reflects its strategic importance to the region and the world. Egypt remains powerless, though, if Hamas’s intentions remain antithetical to Israel’s.