Egypt stepping up pressure on Hamas – Palestinian newspaper al Quds quoted a senior security official as saying Thursday that Egyptian intelligence services have demanded that Hamas hand over three senior members of its military wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam.
According to the official, Hamas has agreed, but the three members have refused to surrender to authorities in fear of being tortured.
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The three terrorists are Ayman Nufal, Raad al-Attar and Muhammad abu Smala. The official stressed that the request, which was transmitted to Hamas prime minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh, is not linked to their direct involvement in Sunday's Rafah attack, but rather to the possibility that the three were involved in logistics assistance provided to arms smuggling and Islamist groups active in Sinai.
Nufal was the commander of Izz al-Din al-Qassam in the central Gaza Strip. In 2008, he was arrested in Sinai by Egyptian security forces and accused of planning terror attacks. The Hamas terrorist served time in Egyptian prison, but escaped during the country's revolution and managed to return to Gaza through a smuggling tunnel.
Al-Attar and Abu Smala are senior member of Hamas' military wing in Rafah. Al- Attar is regarded as one of the masterminds behind Gilad Shalit's kidnapping.
Palestinian security officials have claimed in the past that al-Attar is also responsible for dispatching a terrorist cell that fired Katyusha rockets from the Sinai Peninsula toward the southern city of Eilat in 2010.
Earier on Thursday, Egypt's state TV reported that Egyptian police clashed with armed men in northern Sinai's main town al-Arish, while army forces launched the second day of crackdown against Islamist terrorists.
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