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What was Egypt's real Gaza role?

Tzipi Livni and Hosni Mubarak
Egypt claims it tried to stop Israel's attack on Gaza
Egypt acted as a mediator between Israel and Hamas during the three week conflict in Gaza but its streets boiled with anger as people demonstrated not just against Israel but also their own government.

Its government was claimed to be siding with Israel against Muslim neighbours but what was its behind-the-scenes role?

One of the country's main opposition groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, has no doubt, accusing the government of complicity with the Israelis in the recent conflict.

Dr Essam El-Arian, a political adviser with the Muslim Brotherhood, told File On 4, his group is suspicious of the visit made by Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, to meet President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo 48 hours before hostilities began in Gaza.

'Green light'

Egypt invited the Israelis to Cairo and delivered the message that Egypt would be opposed to any Israeli retaliation to Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza.

But the Muslim Brotherhood claims the Egyptian Government gave a tacit approval of Israeli action.

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Dr Essam El Arain told File On 4: "I think the Egyptians knew everything about the plan of the Israelis against Gaza and they participated in this plan."

He argued that Egypt has a similar interest to Israel in curbing the power and influence of Hamas.

"I think also Egypt does not welcome the control of Hamas on the Gaza Strip," he added.

It is a plausible theory according to Issander el Amrani of the conflict resolution NGO (Non Governmental Organisation), The International Crisis Group.

Close collaboration

"Egypt was very frustrated with the way Hamas was conducting itself through December and not only with the failure of inter-Palestinian reconciliation talks but at the same time Egypt had tried to mediate between the Israelis and Hamas renewal of the truces that had elapsed in December."

He added: "It is clear that the Egyptians will not tolerate in the long term what they call 'an Islamic emirate of Gaza'.

"The eventual goal through whatever means is to remove Hamas from having sole control of the Gaza Strip.

"It is very clear that there has been a collaboration with the Israelis that surpassed anything that has happened before."

Gaza tunnel
Egypt has been urged to secure its border with Gaza

He argued that Israeli and Egyptian interests converge in their opposition to a radical presence in Gaza.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki firmly rejects the conspiracy theories.

"Hamas is part of the Palestinian national scene...we are very conscious of that, we're not trying to replace it or make it disappear.

He admitted the visit of Tzipi Livini was not good for Egypt's image in the Arab world.

"It made us look very bad, and I agree with that, but it does not mean for a second there was any kind of acquiescence from the part of Egypt, this is absolute nonsense."

Border fears

Egypt is facing pressure from two different directions from Hamas and its supporters in the Arab world for failing to condemn Israel and for a border policy that impedes humanitarian to the Palestinians.

But to Israel and the West, it is still too easy to get weapons across Egypt's border.

An Israeli spokesman told File On 4 that Egypt should have more checkpoints in Sinai and the Suez Canal to stop the weapons getting to the border.

While Daniel Kurtzer, US Ambassador to Israel 2001-2005, argued that the Egyptian authorities could to more to curb smuggling on the border with Gaza.

"The war seems to have been a wake up call - there has certainly been since the end of the fighting, a renewed emphasis on the part of the Egyptian authorities to see what they could do to curb the smuggling and to increase both their technical and human resources along that border to try and stop Hamas rearming to the extent it was before," he said.

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