Egypt Bans Hamas' Armed Wing, Lists It as Terror Group

Egyptian officials say weapons are smuggled from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip into Egypt, where they end up with militants fighting to topple the government.

Jack Khoury
Reuters
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In this Monday, Nov. 3, 2014 Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, center, stands during an Air Force exercise in al-Sharqia province, Egypt.
In this Monday, Nov. 3, 2014 Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, center, stands during an Air Force exercise in al-Sharqia province, Egypt.Credit: AP
Jack Khoury
Reuters

An Egyptian court on Saturday banned Hamas' armed wing and listed it as a terrorist organization.

Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood which the authorities have also declared a terrorist group and have repressed systematically since the army ousted one of its leaders, Mohammed Morsi, from the presidency in 2013.

"The court ruled to ban the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades and to list it as a terrorist group," said the judge of the special Cairo court which deals with urgent cases.

The case was based on allegations that the armed wing staged terrorist attacks to support the Brotherhood, and carried out a bombing and shooting operation which killed 33 security personnel in the Sinai Peninsula in October of 2014.

In response, Hamas condemned the court's decision, calling it a dangerous political decision which serves Israel's interests. Hamas stressed that they object to any attempt to point a "blaming finger at Hamas and its military arm for alleged interference in Egypt's internal affairs."

A source close to Hamas' armed wing signalled on Saturday the group would no longer accept Cairo as a broker between it and Israel, after the move.

"After the court's decision Egypt is no longer a mediator in Palestinian-Israeli matters," the source told Reuters. Cairo has played a key role in brokering ceasefires between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip numerous times.

Egyptian officials say weapons are smuggled from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip into Egypt, where they end up with militant groups fighting to topple the Western-backed Cairo government.

It should be noted that the court's ruling is estimated in Egypt to have been influenced by a series of attacks in the Sinai Peninsula on Thursday that killed at least 30 soldiers and police officers.

Islamist militants based in Egypt's Sinai region, which has a border with Gaza, have killed hundreds of police and soldiers since Morsi's political demise. The insurgency has spread to other parts of Egypt, the most populous Arab country.

Egyptian officials say the Brotherhood, Islamic State, Al-Qaida and Sinai Province, previously called Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, share the same ideology.

The Brotherhood says it is committed to peaceful activism despite facing one of the toughest crackdowns in its history.

Militant attacks in Sinai, while far from Cairo and tourist attractions, have hurt government efforts to project an image of stability to win back foreign investors and tourists.

On Saturday, a sniper wounded a soldier in a village in central Sinai, security sources said. In northern Sinai, Islamist militant gunmen killed a Christian man suspected of cooperating with Egyptian authorities.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Saturday that Egypt faces a long, hard battle against militancy. "This battle will be difficult, strong, evil and will take a long time," he said in comments broadcast on state television after meeting Egypt's top military officers.

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