(JTA) — Egyptian intelligence operatives reportedly abducted four Palestinians who are believed to be senior Hamas naval commandos on their way to Iran for training.
The four Gazans were on a bus traveling from the Gaza border with Egypt to the Cairo airport when they were taken Wednesday, the Times of Israel reported. The Palestinians had crossed into Egypt during a short period in which the Rafah border crossing was open.
A Gaza Interior Ministry spokesman said in a statement Thursday that the Palestinians were kidnapped at gunpoint in the northern Sinai and that Gaza officials had asked Egypt’s Interior Ministry “to establish the circumstances of what happened and demand that the Egyptians work to protect the victims and release them.”
Hamas naval commandos are believed to have received sophisticated equipment from Iran, including underwater scooters that can travel long distances, and are believed to have undergone intensive training there.
Egyptian intelligence, according to the Times of Israel, has found that Hamas is working with the Islamic State jihadist group to smuggle weapons in and out of Gaza and that it has been filming along the Gaza-Egypt border.
The Sinai, which Israel took in the 1967 Six-Day War, was returned to Egypt as part of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Once a popular vacation destination for Israelis, the area has become a hub for Islamist activity in recent years.