Hamas Calls Egypt Blockade a 'Crime Against Humanity'

Ties between neighbors take sharp turn to the worse as Egypt kicks out one of Islamist group's top leaders.

Tensions between Egypt and Hamas escalated further on Tuesday as Cairo refused to let one of the movement's top leaders stay in town, and Hamas accused Egypt of a "crime against humanity" for closing the Gaza border.

Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk will apparently have to move after Egyptian authorities refused to extend his residency permit in Cairo, the Palestinian news agency Maan reports. He had moved there from Damascus when the Syrian civil war broke out.

Abu Marzouk's residency permit, by virtue of which he lives in a 4-storey house on the Cairo outskirts, expires in April, the source told Maan.

This is not the first clash between Cairo and the Hamas leader: last month the Egyptian authorities – which weren't commenting – refused to let his son into the country. Egypt has also outlawed Hamas activities on its territory.

Evidently the soured sentiment is mutual: Hamas on Tuesday accused Egypt of committing a "crime against humanity" and against the Palestinian people for closing the Rafah border crossing, for the last 39 days.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum condemned "the continuation of this blockade and closing the crossing, all while Israel escalates and (increases) aggression. We hold all parties to the blockade of Gaza completely responsible for the consequences of this crime," he said in a statement, Maan reports.

Egypt has ascribed its border crackdown to security reasons, which seems to have left the United Nations unmoved. Citing Gazans who might need medical care, UN under-secretary general for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman said the closure "afflicts the civilian population." He also noted shortages in Gaza of drugs and medical equipment, forcing Gazans to seek care elsewhere.

Egypt has also demolished hundreds of cross-border smuggling tunnels through which weapons, but also basic goods such as food and fuel, were transported into Gaza. 

Israel has maintained strict curbs on the movement of goods and people in Gaza since Hamas took control there following bloody battles with Palestinian rivals in 2007.

The twin blockades have left the Gaza Strip's industry and construction sectors gasping for resources, pushing unemployment to new lows and deepening poverty.