Palestinian Hamas' leader from Gaza, Mahmoud Zahar (Photo: AP)
Palestinian resistance faction Hamas, which has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007, has declared that it would never infiltrate Egypt's borders nor use weapons against Egyptian military personnel. The statements came in the wake of a deadly attack near Egypt's border with the besieged strip that left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead on Sunday.
According to the Egyptian health ministry, seven soldiers were also injured in the attack, carried out at a military zone near the city of Rafah, which straddles the Egypt-Gaza border.
No group has claimed responsibility for the incident, but an Egyptian security official pointed the finger at "Jihadist militants," according to state-run news agency MENA.
"Hamas has nothing to do with the border tensions," Hamas senior leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar told Ahram Online. "On the contrary, Hamas cares about Egypt's national security and would never use weapons against the Egyptian army."
"No Hamas fighter would ever go to Egypt without permission. They go there for medical treatment, not for any other purpose," he added.
Al-Zahar went on to condemn Sunday's attack.
"We have the right to be armed, but our weapons would never kill Egyptians," he said. "Throughout its history, Hamas neither harmed Egypt's national security nor that of any other Arab country."
"Some people, who are spreading false rumours about Egypt's Islamist current to weaken it during the election period, are trying to drag us into a conflict," he added. "But we would never authorise anyone to attack an Egyptian soldier."
"Those who say Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has surrendered Sinai to Hamas want to undermine Egypt," Al-Zahar concluded.
An army source told Ahram Online that Rafah was currently in a state of alert, but declined to provide details.
Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has sunk into a state of lawlessness since last year's Tahrir Square uprising, which ended Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule. Since then, Islamists have reportedly spread across the peninsula’s northern region, allegedly carrying out attacks on police stations and repeatedly bombing a pipeline carrying gas to Israel and Jordan – although the perpetrators of these attacks were never caught nor identified.