Egypt is “delusional” if it believes it can crush Hamas in Gaza, a Hamas spokesman said on Wednesday, commenting on a recent report attributed to Egyptian security officers saying Hamas is the Egyptian government’s next target after toppling its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood.
Four Egyptian “security and diplomatic officials” told Reuters on Tuesday that Egypt is cooperating with Fatah and other anti-Hamas groups in an elaborate campaign to undermine the Hamas regime in Gaza.
“We cannot get liberated from the terrorism of the Brotherhood in Egypt without ending it in Gaza, which lies on our borders,” one official said.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, blasted Egypt for admitting it aspired to destroy his movement.
“These statements are dangerous and constitute the first official Egyptian admission of Cairo’s involvement in the domestic Palestinian issue, and its aspiration to destroy the Palestinian resistance forces in Gaza,” Abu Zuhri said in a statement posted to his Facebook page. “This is also further proof of the involvement of certain elements in Fatah in this scheme.
“Hamas affirms that any attempt to topple the resistance forces is nothing more the delusions. Arab parties should focus their capabilities against the Israeli occupation,” he added.
Egypt’s decision last month to classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terror organization does not apply to Hamas, said Yasser Othman, the Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinian Authority. He added, however, that Hamas’s conduct would determine Egypt’s treatment of it.
“The criterion for implementing the law on anyone is their behavior toward Egypt and the extent of their intervention in internal Egyptian affairs,” Othman said.
Hamas’s belligerent statements come amid an upsurge in violence emanating from the Gaza Strip. On Wednesday night five missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip in the direction of Ashkelon, but were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. The Israeli Air Force conducted airstrikes in northern Gaza in retaliation.
Hamas official Mushir Al-Masri said the Israeli strikes were “dangerous,” adding that Hamas and other factions were weighing their response to them.
Cairo has alleged Hamas involvement in a spate of deadly attacks in recent months against Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula, which abuts the Gaza Strip. Acting on suspicions that smuggling tunnels were being used to transfer arms and personnel into the Sinai, Egypt has intensified its crackdown on the tunnels, one of Hamas’s main sources of income.