TEL AVIV – Egyptian forces caught a Hamas cell plotting to assassinate Egyptian leaders, including the chief of the country’s military, according to an Egyptian security official speaking to WND

The claim demonstrates the continued deterioration in relations between Egypt’s secular military rulers and the Islamic radical Hamas group in neighboring Gaza.

The Egyptian security official said the Hamas cell admitted upon interrogation to a plan to assassinate the army chief, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who recently indicated he will run for president in upcoming elections. The cell mentioned other secular Egyptian leaders as potential targets, the official said.

The Egyptian military last July deposed the U.S.-supported presidency of Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi. The military has since been fighting the Brotherhood and Islamic extremist groups acting in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt and Hamas have been on such bad terms that Hamas this week called an Egyptian move to shut Gaza crossings a “crime against humanity.” Egypt said it closes the pathways out of fear that terrorists have been smuggling weapons into and out of the Gaza Strip.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, said Egyptian authorities’ “insistence on closing the Rafah crossing and tightening the blockade of Gaza … is a crime against humanity by every criteria and a crime against the Palestinian people.”

Last month, WND reported thousands of foreign jihadists were attempting to infiltrate Egypt, stoking fears of a coming destabilization campaign akin to the insurgency in Syria, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.

The officials warned of a troubling development taking place among the al-Qaida-linked organizations already inside Egypt. They said there is information the militant groups are forming a de facto chain of command, with alarming coordination between the various jihadist factions embedded around the country.

The terrorist infrastructure is being set up beyond the Islamist stronghold of the Sinai Peninsula. The officials said al-Qaida-linked groups in Egypt have been forming divisions replete with leadership and assignments to specific territories, including in the Sinai, Suez regions, outside Cairo and along the Delta.

Some Internet al-Qaida forums have even been discussing the possibility of declaring the Sinai an Islamic emirate.

The security officials told WND last month that militants killed in a recent Egyptian military operation targeting the terrorist infrastructure in the Sinai included jihadists from Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, evidencing the foreign nature of some of the fighters.

The security officials said al-Qaida groups believe the way to weaken the Egyptian economy is to target both transport and tourism.

Last month, Germany joined a list of countries strongly advising against tourist travel to all regions of the Sinai.

The move followed the announcement by a Sinai-based Islamic extremist group warning tourists to vacate Egypt before Feb. 20, threatening to attack those who remained in the country.

The same group claimed credit for a suicide bombing on a tourist bus earlier in February in the Sinai near the Taba border crossing with Israel. Two South Korean tourists and an Egyptian were killed in the attack.

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