The difference between the present and past conflicts is that Hamas is now drawing encouragement not just from Tehran but also from the new Egyptian regime. If the head of the military council Field Marshall Mohammed Tantawi wanted to, he could put a stop to Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elarabi's active policy of rapprochement with Tehran and reconciliation with Hamas leaders in Damascus and Gaza. It is Elaraby's ambition to transfer Hamas's political center headed by Khaled Meshaal from Damascus to Cairo, lift the Egyptian embargo against Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip for the free movement of people and goods and transform the enclave into Egypt's launching pad for an anti-Israeli policy harking back to the hostility predating the epic peace relations President Anwar Sadat forged with Israel in 1979. The new rulers are also distancing themselves from the close alliance the deposed Hosni Mubarak maintained with Saudi Arabia. While Riyadh fights Iranian-backed insurgents in Bahrain and slams the door on further encroachments in the Arab world, Cairo is opening it wide to give the Islamic Republic a foothold both in Cairo and in Gaza. Hamas is encouraged to spread its sphere of aggression from the half million Israeli civilians within missile range to far broader regions. When US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Cairo on March 24, he tried to warn the military rulers that their indulgence of Hamas was bound to end badly in an Israeli military campaign to cut short its belligerent behavior. But three days later, when he was in Israel, he had to admit to his hosts that his warning fell on deaf ears.
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