Egypt's claim that it broke up a Hizballah plot to attack Israeli tourists in the Sinai Peninsula is triggering an interesting debate. Last week, Egypt announced it had arrested about half the members of a 49-man cell with links to Hezbollah, seizing explosive belts and other bomb-making materials in the process.
The cell leader told authorities that his group wanted to launch simultaneous attacks against Israeli tourists at three different locations. The plot was designed to be retaliation for the 2008 assassination of Imad Mughniyah, a senior Hizballah operative in an attack blamed on Israel.
Hizballah leadership has denied the allegations, with Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah saying any of the group's people in Egypt were trying to help Hamas leaders over the border in Gaza. Similarly, Deputy Chief Sheikh Naim Qassem called the allegations "fabricated" and "worthless" in an interview with the Agence France Presse news service.
A Hizballah operative was among the men arrested, he acknowledged, but the explosives found were supposed to be smuggled into Gaza and not used in any attack on Egyptian soil, he said:
"We have one enemy called Israel and as far as we are concerned Egypt is not an enemy. Egypt's accusations are in revenge for our position on Gaza and our demand that the Rafah border crossing be opened."
Meanwhile, an Egyptian official is threatening Hizballah with "a heavy price" for plotting against Egyptian sovereignty. Another official blames Iran for the conspiracy, which the official claimed also sought a broader power shift in the region which would have undermined Egypt. He promised that surprising revelations soon will emerge.