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Egypt moves to revoke Hamas official’s citizenship

Secular government examines thousands of Palestinians who became naturalized Egyptians over past three years

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Mahmoud al-Zahar (photo credit: Wissam Nassar/Flash90)
Mahmoud al-Zahar (photo credit: Wissam Nassar/Flash90)

Egypt is moving to revoke the citizenship of a senior Hamas official in Gaza, a government official said on Sunday.

Major General Hussein al-Ridi, an assistant to the interior minister for immigration and citizenship issues, told Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya that a request to revoke the Egyptian citizenship of Mahmoud al-Zahar and 11 of his family members has been forwarded to the government for approval.

Al-Ridi explained that al-Zahar and his family belong to an organization which “works to weaken Egypt’s economic and social system,” a reference to the Hamas movement, which was branded a terror organization under Egyptian law in early March.

Eight thousand Palestinians won Egyptian citizenship during the one-year tenure of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, Al-Ridi added, including Al-Zahar, whose mother was Egyptian.

Special committees have been established in Egypt’s interior ministry to review all cases of Palestinians naturalized as Egyptians since May 2011, a number estimated at 24,000, he said. Palestinians who are found to belong to “a terror organization or a foreign army or military establishment” will have their citizenship revoked “immediately and without debate.”

On March 6, Egyptian independent daily Al-Youm A-Sabi’ reported that authorities are seeking to strip thousands of Palestinians residing in Egypt of their Egyptian citizenship.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, the Cairo-based deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, has denied rumors that he would be forced to leave Egypt following the ouster of Morsi in June 2013.

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