Egypt Beefs Up Military Presence in Sinai

The move is part of a broader response to Sunday's attack in Sinai, in which terrorists killed 16 Egyptian soldiers at a border post.

As part of a crackdown on terrorism and arms smuggling, the Egyptian army on Tuesday began beefing up its presence in the area where the borders of Israel, Egypt and Gaza converge, and particularly in the area nearest the Gaza Strip.

The move is part of a broader response to Sunday's attack in Sinai, in which terrorists killed 16 Egyptian soldiers at a border post and then raced across the border with Israel in stolen armored personnel carriers.

The Egyptian army is now trying to crack down on Sinai terrorism, and especially the arms smuggling between Sinai and Gaza.

In Cairo, the funerals of the soldiers slain in the attack lasted for hours on Tuesday. Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi did not attend, as his security services warned that he could be attacked if he did. And indeed, an angry mob chased and beat Prime Minister Hesham Kandil, who did attend, as his security guards tried in vain to fend them off.

According to the Egyptian media, the mob was yelling slogans against the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi, who was the Brotherhood's candidate for president, accusing them of responsibility for the soldiers' deaths.

Morsi, for his part, convened representatives of all the Egyptian parties last night, apparently in an effort to reach a consensus over military action in Sinai.

At the Egypt-Gaza border area, eyewitnesses told Haaretz that dozens of additional soldiers have appeared so far, along with armored personnel carriers and trucks that are now deployed there. The soldiers, who were keeping watch in the direction of both Sinai and Israel, looked distinctly nervous.

The Egyptians also brought in bulldozers, the witnesses said, which both Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza presume will be used to shut down the smuggling tunnels.

On the Israeli side of the three-way border, near the Kerem Shalom crossing, workers were busy repairing the border fence, which was destroyed in Sunday's attack.

Meanwhile, perhaps in an effort to assuage Egyptian anger, Hamas also continued shutting down smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. The Egyptians claim the terrorists entered Sinai via these tunnels.

The hundreds of smuggling tunnels are under the full supervision of Gaza's Hamas government, which collects taxes on every person or bit of merchandise that passes through in either direction. These tunnels are one of Hamas' main revenue sources. Hence the Egyptians believe the terrorists could not have transited these tunnels without Hamas at least turning a blind eye.

But these tunnels are also the main source of income for tens of thousands of people in both Gaza and Sinai, so any large-scale closure is likely to cause widespread economic distress.

Despite its efforts to shut down the tunnels, however, Hamas continued Tuesday to insist that Israel was actually behind Sunday's attack.