Sunday,17 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1178, (2 - 8 January 2014)
Sunday,17 December, 2017
Issue 1178, (2 - 8 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Another blow to the Brotherhood

The recent designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation has raised questions about the status of Hamas in the region, reports Doaa El-Bey

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Al-Ahram Weekly

While the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt dealt a blow to Hamas and meant that it lost one of its main regional allies, the designation of the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation could well be an even harder blow that will increase the group’s political isolation.

On the official level, Egypt has not designated Hamas — an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood — a terrorist organisation. However, it has not excluded that option in the future.

Ahmed Al-Boraai, Egypt’s minister of social solidarity, said that the government was not presently considering designating Hamas as a terrorist organisation, but the matter “could be discussed” in the future.

However, he added that Hamas was part of the international Muslim Brotherhood organisation and that Egypt would not allow that organisation to interfere in its internal affairs.

Yasser Othman, Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinian Territories, said that Hamas’s behaviour would determine its future relations with Egypt. “The government decision includes the Brotherhood inside and outside Egypt, but it does not include Hamas,” he added.

However, another diplomat who talked on condition of anonymity said that the Egyptian government decision had left Hamas with two alternatives: either to officially declare its disengagement from the Muslim Brotherhood or risk being listed as a terrorist organisation.

Nabil Zaki, spokesperson of the leftist Tagammu Party, said that the government should work on “exposing” Hamas and removing it from power in the Gaza Strip.

“The government’s job is to secure the lives of Egyptians and protect the economy. Hamas is exposing Egyptians to danger by supporting terrorist groups in Sinai and wrecking the economy by smuggling goods from Egypt to Gaza via the border tunnels,” he said.

He said that Egypt was the only ally Hamas had left after it had lost the support of Syria, the Lebanese Shia group Hizbullah and Iran.

Hamas, which depends on its allies for financial, military, and political support, severed ties with Syria last year because of the crackdown orchestrated by the regime led by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on the predominantly Sunni opposition.

As a result, Iran stopped its financial aid to Hamas.

Egypt took the decision to list the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation last week in the wake of the earlier attack in the Delta city of Mansoura that left 15 killed and more than 130 injured.

The blast caused major damage to the city’s council building, a state-owned theatre and a bank.

Hamas has denied any involvement in the blast, claiming that it had no link to that attack or to any other attack in Egypt, according to movement spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri in a statement last week.

Hamas has reacted with defiance to the Egyptian decision, ruling out any move to sever relations with the Brotherhood. Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said that the group was proud of its ties with the Brotherhood and would not disengage “for any reason.”

Moussa Abu Marzouk, a senior member of the Hamas political bureau, said this week that “we will not give up our relation with the Muslim Brotherhood to satisfy Egypt, and we will not hand over any of our members to it.”

Relations between Egypt and Hamas have been tense since the ouster of former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi in early July last year.

Since then, the Egyptian government has embarked on a campaign against Hamas because it considers it to be the supporter of militant groups who have been stepping up their attacks against Egypt’s security forces in Sinai.

Hamas has repeatedly denied these accusations. 

Meanwhile, the Egyptian army has destroyed more than 300 tunnels used for smuggling on the Egyptian border with Gaza.

Palestinian sources said that 90 per cent of the tunnels had been closed, leading to the potential loss of nearly 40 per cent of Hamas’s revenues.

Hamas has also been accused of being involved in the early days of the 25 January Revolution against ousted former president Hosni Mubarak, when Egyptian prisons were stormed and hundreds of detainees freed, most of them Muslim Brothers, as well as Hizbullah and Palestinian operatives held in Egypt for terrorist activities.

The Egyptian Armed Forces also accuse Hamas of harbouring the militants that killed Egyptian officers and soldiers in Sinai in the summer of 2012. Hamas is additionally accused of harbouring the new Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide, Mahmoud Ezzat, in Gaza.

In the post-Morsi period, the Egyptian authorities have only intermittently opened the Rafah border with the Gaza Strip. The crossing is the only official gateway for the 1.7 million people who live in the Strip, which is being blockaded by Israel.

Egypt has allowed only authorised travellers such as foreign nationals, visa holders, and patients seeking medical treatment, to cross.

One day after the government’s decision to designate the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, the Palestinian movement Fatah called on Hamas to distance itself from the Muslim Brotherhood in the interest of the Palestinian cause.

A Fatah spokesman said the continuation of Hamas’s “subordination” to the international Muslim Brotherhood would put millions of Palestinians, especially those in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, in a position of confrontation with several Arab states, including Egypt.

Leaders from various factions in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) on Saturday echoed Fatah’s call and urged Hamas to dissociate itself from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hamas was founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The division between Hamas and Fatah began in 2006, when Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in Gaza.

In the following year, clashes erupted between Fatah and Hamas, leaving Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in control of the Israeli occupied West Bank.

In a separate development that could further increase Hamas’s political isolation, the Tamarod Movement in Gaza called on the Arab League, the United Nations, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the Arab states to list Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

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