An urgent matters court banned the activities of Hamas inside Egypt on Tuesday morning and ordered the confiscation of the group’s offices in Cairo.
Ezzat El-Rashq, a prominent leader in the ruling movement of the Gaza Strip, condemned the court’s ruling, describing it as “a political decision that targets the Palestinian people and its valiant resistance”.
El-Rashq, who is also a member of Hamas’s political bureau, said the fact that the Egyptian judiciary accepted and looked into a case to consider whether Hamas is a “terrorist organisation offers a free service for the Zionist occupation”.
He said that the court ruling is a culmination of what was started by the Egyptian media and some politicians, adding that it is “the deliberate distortion of the resistance, our people and the movement… it stems from political floundering, not the interests of the Egyptian people.”
He stated: “Declaring Hamas a ‘terrorist organisation’ in Egypt is a dangerous precedent which has negative repercussions on continuing the unjust siege on the Gaza Strip.”
He called on the Egyptian judiciary to avoid being dragged in the campaign of distortion against a Palestinian faction that is resisting and defending the honour of the “Arabic and Islamic nation”.
Hamas, an acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, has maintained for months that there is a media campaign in Egypt with the purpose of “distorting the image” of the movement. It accused top Fatah officials of involvement in the campaign.
This court ruling is the latest blow to Hamas-Cairo ties. The period following the ouster of Morsi was followed by disruptions in the operation of the Rafah border crossing, with Egyptian authorities often keeping the border crossing shut longer than a week. The disruptions have hampered the mobility of Gaza residents since the border crossing is considered the primary entry and exit point of the strip.
The last few months also witnessed an intensified crackdown on the illegal underground tunneling activity, which adds more restrictions to movement, and also hampers the entry of goods to the strip, including food, medicine, fuel and building materials.
These illegal smuggling tunnels are a vital lifeline for citizens of the Gaza Strip, who have lived under a land, air and sea blockade since 2007, when Hamas gained control of the strip.
The ouster of Morsi was also followed by media reports linking Hamas to internal strife in Egypt and to insurgency in Sinai, which put further strain on Egypt-Hamas ties. Hamas has denied any involvement in the recent surge in militancy that has taken place in the Sinai Peninsula or in Egyptian internal affairs.
Official charges were brought against Morsi and other Brotherhood figures on 18 December, accusing them of taking part in a “plot” organised by a number of foreign parties — including Hamas — to incite “violence inside Egypt to create a state of ultimate chaos”.
Hamas, some of whose members are defendants in the case, described it as an “absurd farce and utterly politicised”.