After Ambush, Hamas Urges Opening Up Border

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist faction controlling the Gaza Strip, is calling on the Egyptian government to reopen the Rafah Border Crossing to the Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt's interim government closed the crossing following a terror attack earlier this week on two buses transporting off-duty police officers.

On Monday, a terror cell ambushed the buses near the Rafah crossing in northern Gaza, ordered the policemen outside and shot them, execution style, killing all 25 officers.

Their flag-draped coffins were flown to the Cairo airport Monday evening, where an honor guard carried them in a ceremony broadcast on Egyptian television, with Arabic and English subtitles proclaiming "Egypt Fighting Terrorism," an issue at the top of the new government's agenda.

The determination to combat terrorism, especially in the Sinai Desert, has posed some problems for Hamas.

As an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas had a friend in deposed President Mohammed Morsi, who at the outset began easing restrictions at Rafah, making it easier for Gazans to travel in and out of Egypt and beyond.

But Morsi's overthrow left Hamas high and dry. Soon after his ouster, the interim government began sealing up the Rafah smuggling tunnels, used for everything from household supplies, fuel and other practical items to weapons and terrorists.

Both the Egyptian and Israeli militaries have long suspected Hamas of aiding jihadists in the Sinai, tracking their movement in and out of the desert region as well as movement to Syria to fight alongside rebel forces there.

Since Morsi's ouster on July 3, Hamas has sought to renew ties with its traditional allies, Iran and the Lebanese-based Iranian proxy, Hezbollah. Hamas lost favor with Iran and Hezbollah when it sided with the Syrian opposition, made up in large part by Islamist groups, over President Bashar Assad.

For years, Iran played a key role in smuggling Iranian-made weaponry into Gaza, as well as funding and training Hamas militiamen.

"It is in the interest of Hamas today to revive its rapport with Iran and Hezbollah for many reasons," Reuters quoted Gaza-based political analyst Hani Habib. "At the end of the day, all parties have an interest in this partnership."

Meanwhile, Hamas officials are feeling their way with Iran's newly elected President Hasan Rohani, hoping he will reopen the flow of funds the Islamist group enjoyed before.

But if Egypt continues to move toward recovery from the Muslim Brotherhood's short-lived takeover, the new Iranian regime will have to come up with creative ways to smuggle arms and munitions to Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip.

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