Crossfire War – Major Confrontation Emerging in Sinai Between Hamas/Egypt

Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – EL-ARISH – GAZA WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Amman – Baghdad – Beirut – Damascus – Ramallah – Gaza – El-Arish/Cairo – Jerusalem – Paris – London – Washington; El-Arish the Pilgrim Front – Palestinians Riot – Hamas Threatens Attacks Against Egypt – Tehran has al-Qaeda Attack Awakening Councils in Iraq Working with U. S.

Night Watch: EL-ARISH – A new front has opened up in West Asia in the Sinai peninsula threatening Egypt President Hosni Mubarak whose authority is again being challenged by Hamas. This one revolves around the 3,060 Palestinian pilgrims returning from Mecca to Gaza. The issue is what Egypt-Gaza border crossing will they use, one controlled by Israel or the Rafah crossing controlled by Egypt. Mubarak is willing to let them go through the Israeli controlled crossing Aouja, but that would mean at least 10 Hamas agents, led by Khalil al-Haya, would be arrested since they are carrying $150 million in Egyptian-Jordanian currency for Hamas’ war effort against Israel. Asharq al-Awsat/AP reports Egyptian authorities set up 11 temporary camps at el-Arish in the Sinai on the Mediterranean coast but rioters have set fire to them, as they demand passage through Rafah, which means the money for Hamas would reach Gaza. [ASHARQALAWSAT]

Rafah – Debka reports the money will keep Hamas’ missile-mortar offensive active for three or four months. Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who also attended the pilgrimage, at a secret Saudi location on Dec. 19, gave $50 million. The rest came from the Muslim Brotherhood, which is based in Cairo and actually spawned Hamas twenty years ago. Both Tehran and the MB are against Mubarak’s government, especially its attempts to work with Israel and the West against radical groups like Hamas and Mubarak just hosted France President Nicolas Sarkozy. The French President used his visit to sever relations with Damascus. Both Tehran-Hamas are quite willing to use this latest crisis to not only challenge Mubarak’s authority in Sinai and Egypt, but to also end any military-security cooperation between Cairo-Jerusalem and Cairo and the West. This could easily escalate into major fighting since Hamas has thousands of fighters in Gaza that can be called upon for reinforcements. [DEBKA]

El-Arish – Xinhua is now reporting Hamas member, Ismail al-Ashqar, is threatening disturbances if Mubarak does not allow the pilgrims to pass through Rafah terminal, “Egypt can alone make a decision to open Rafah crossing.” He then added ominously if not, “Things will break out and it will be reflected on Egypt and the whole region.” This is definitely Tehran talking especially with the reference to “the whole region.” Iran has probably outlined a number of regional scenarios-events they can create and exploit to set off full-scale war and not just fighting against Israel. Regular readers of know I had always projected it would be Israel’s response to attacks that set off the chain reaction, but instead it could be Mubarak’s response to threats that he knows are generated by Tehran. With Mubarak as Tehran’s main regional target Iran may prefer a crisis-war with Egypt to begin the chain reaction of events that will lead to his removal. [XINHUA]

Tarmiyah – Attacks have increased against militias, the Awakening Councils in Iraq, just two days after Tehran had Osama Bin Laden make his threat over the internet. Al Jazeera/AFP report the largest attack was in the central Iraq town of Tarmiyah when several members of the local Awakening Council were killed in a suicide truck bomb attack on a checkpoint. There was also fighting in two villages further north and al-Qaeda attacks in Dalli Abbas village in Diyala province near the provincial capital Baquba. There was also action near Samarra. [ALJAZEERA]

Willard Payne is an international affairs analyst who specializes in International Relations. A graduate of Western Illinois University with a concentration in East-West Trade and East-West Industrial Cooperation, he has been providing incisive analysis to NewsBlaze. He is the author of Imagery: The Day Before.