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JERUSALEM – A suspected plotter of last month’s triple bomb blasts in the Sinai resort town of Dahab has infiltrated the Gaza Strip and has been extended refuge there by local terror groups, including members of Hamas, according to Egyptian officials.
The officials, speaking to WND on condition of anonymity, said authorities issued a request for Hamas to arrest and turn over the alleged attack plotter, who they said escaped from the Al-Arish region of the Sinai desert near Dahab, a popular Read Sea vacation and diving center not far from Egypt’s border with Israel.
Twenty-four people were killed and over 85 were injured last month in the bomb attacks, which ripped through a Dahab restaurant, cafe and shopping center.
As WND reported, Egyptian intelligence officials said they suspect the blasts were carried out by local cells of Bedouins situated in the Sinai and affiliated with global jihad groups, including al-Qaida. A suicide bomber responsible for one of the blasts was identified as a Sinai-based Bedouin.
The Dahab bombing came just one day after al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was featured on a tape warning of more attacks.
Egyptian special forces in recent week have been raiding Bedouin villages in the Sinai, making multiple arrests and leading interrogations of suspected militants.
Egyptian officials told WND one attack plotter entered the Gaza Strip via the Rafah Crossing, the main Egypt-Gaza checkpoint, and has been provided shelter by Hamas members and leaders of the Popular Resistance Committees, a Gaza-based terror organization.
They said the wanted militant is a relative of Khaled Musaed, who was a Sinai dentist Egyptian security officers say was the Sinai coordinator for al-Qaida-linked groups in the area. Musaed was killed several weeks ago in an Egyptian raid.
The Egyptian officials have requested the Hamas-led Palestinian government arrest and turn over the wanted militant.
Abu Abir, spokesperson for the Popular Resistance Committees, said he was aware of the Egyptian request but denied his group was harboring anyone associated with the Dahab bombings.
“This is propaganda to discredit us and Hamas,” Abu Abir told WND.
Following a deal brokered in November by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, security has been lax at the Rafah Crossing. A recent WND probe found Rice’s Rafah border agreement has allowed terrorists to infiltrate the Gaza Strip, where they are poised to attack Israel, and grants Gaza-based terrorists freedom to travel into the nearby Sinai desert, where they can meet with regional jihadists.
The Egyptian accusations are the latest suspected links between Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees, and also between both groups and al-Qaida cells allegedly operating in the Sinai desert.
Last month, Committees members attempted to carry out a large-scale car bombing at the Karni Crossing, the main cargo passageway between the Gaza Strip and Israel. The attack, foiled at the last minute, was set to take place at the same time two suicide bombs exploded near a multinational peacekeeping force in the Sinai adjacent to Gaza – attacks blamed on the same global jihad groups accused of the Dahab bombing.
Palestinian intelligence officials told WND the Committees’ foiled Karni attack was coordinated with Sinai cells affiliated with al-Qaida.
Israel’s Shin Bet Security Services announced the Karni attack was directed by Hamas senior member Ahmed Randor. It said Hamas and the Committees work together regularly.
The Popular Resistance Committees has been responsible for many of the rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at nearby Jewish communities the past few years. It has also been accused of carrying out the 2003 attack on a U.S. convoy in Gaza in which three Americans were killed.
Hamas subcontracts terror group for attacks
According to a report by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at Israel’s Center for Special Studies, Hamas, concerned about its international image after taking over the Palestinian Authority, has “subcontracted” the Committees to commit terror acts in its place, with new Committees militants even pledging allegiance to Hamas as part of their induction.
“There are strong indications the Popular Resistance Committees has become a kind of Hamas subcontractor. Handling the Committees behind the scenes enables Hamas to encourage terrorist attacks against Israel while outwardly maintaining its policy of restraint and coping with the political exigencies resulting from the composition of its government,” stated the Center for Special Studies report.
Hamas officially took over of the PA after winning January’s parliamentary elections by a large margin. It appointed Jamal Abu Samhadana, overall leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, to the post of interior minister and general supervisor of the Palestinian police.
The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center report stated Samhadana, who has a long history of anti-Israel violence and of collaboration with Hamas, made it clear he intended to continue as head of the Committees and attack Israel even after his appointment to the Hamas administration.
The report referenced Israeli interrogations carried out last November in which arrested Committees members allegedly stated Hamas provided their organization extensive operational support including arms, training, attack instructions and monthly funding.
One arrested Committees member allegedly told interrogators new recruits to his terror group were routinely brought before local Hamas representatives to swear their allegiance.
The Center also quoted from an interview posted on the Popular Resistance Committees website featuring one of its senior members describing methods his terror group used to coordinate anti-Israel attacks with Hamas.
“We receive material aid from Hamas, as do six or seven military factions which belong to the Fatah movement,” stated Committees member Abu Yussuf al-Qoqa, who was killed by a car bomb in March.
“We will stand by [Hamas] and support them in everything we can for the sake of the success of the Islamic resistance program since Islam is the only way the rights robbed from the Palestinians will be returned,” al-Qoqa said.