Israeli troops on Gaza border

TEL AVIV – Israel stopped what would have been a spectacular border terrorist attack planned from inside the Gaza Strip, according to Egyptian security officials.

The Egyptian officials said there is information the attack Tuesday was aimed at the sole pipeline that supplies Gaza with gas. The pipeline, located at the Israeli town of Nahal Oz, is manned and provided by Israel.

Israeli security officials would not comment on the matter.

In a rare incident, on Tuesday all electricity, phone and Internet service was suspended for about 18 hours in the Gaza Strip.

The blackout was reportedly caused by Israeli military bulldozers operating near the fuel pipeline in the Israeli town of Nahal Oz, which is close to the Gaza Strip.

At about the same time the electricity went out in Gaza, the Egyptian officials said Israel passed a message for Egypt to be on high alert for possible attacks from inside the Gaza Strip.

The Egyptian officials said they have information that Israel was actually working to stop a cross border attack aimed at the fuel pipeline. The officials said the downing of communications inside Gaza was central to halting the attack.

The Egyptian officials said members of Jihadiya Salafiya, an al-Qaida-allied group in Gaza, are suspected of attempting the major attack along with elements of the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad.

An attack on Gaza’s pipelines would be devastating for both Israel and the Gaza population, which relies on the supply lines for its fuel.

Since the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February, similar attacks have been carried out three times now on an Egyptian pipeline located in the Sinai desert that supplies Israel with about 35 percent of its gas needs. All three attacks have been blamed on Jihadiya Salafiya and likeminded Islamist jihad groups.

Hamas telecommunications officials said yesterday an Israel Defense Forces bulldozer damaged a communications cable and cut all phone and Internet networks in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip the day before.

The IDF spokesman’s office denied the army was “responsible for the incident” but added it was willing to “help restore communications.”

An attack on Gaza’s fuel pipelines could have negative implications for Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

While both Hamas and al-Qaida are offshoots of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the groups often clash over a difference in tactics.

In August 2008, Jihadiya Salafiya announced it established an armed wing, which it called the Damascus Soldiers, brandishing weapons in a public display in Gaza while openly identifying with al-Qaida ideologically.

Unlike other radical Islamic organizations such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, which have demonstrated some pragmatism in aspects of political life while still holding an Islamist worldview, the new al-Qaida organization believes in a strict interpretation of the Quran and that only the Quran can dictate how to act.

The Islamist group believes violent jihad is the primary way to spread Islam around the world, including jihad against secular Muslim states.

Hamas has worked with the al-Qaida-allied groups in Gaza. It took credit along with Jaish al-Islam for the kidnapping in June 2006 of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

But Jihadiya Salifiya has been regularly publishing pamphlets labeling Hamas as “non-Muslim” since the terror group ran in 2006 democratic elections, which the Islamist organizations see as an expression of Western values.

Also, for the past two years, al-Qaida leaders themselves have released audio tapes blasting Hamas for participating in elections and in the democratic process.

Hamas several times has engaged in heavy fire clashes with the Islamist organizations in Gaza, including Jihadiya Salafiya.

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