Representatives of several Palestinian terror groups based in the Gaza Strip condemned Egypt’s decision to declare Hamas’s armed wing a banned terrorist group, adding that the ruling would cripple the Islamist organization’s efforts to carry out attacks against Israel.
A masked gunman, who read the condemnation statement aloud on behalf of 10 terror groups in the Strip, stressed that Gaza had no quarrel with Egypt and called on Cairo to halt its measures against the Palestinians.
“Resistance factions… concentrate their work against the Zionist enemy,” the gunman said, according to Reuters.
“We reaffirm that we do not intervene in the internal affairs of Arab countries and we hope that no one will export their internal problems toward the Palestinian people and its resistance factions,” he said.
Last Saturday, an Egyptian court ruled that Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was a terror organization, in a move that left the Islamist group reeling.
Since the Egyptian military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, the authorities have accused the Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip of aiding jihadists who have increased their attacks on security forces in the Sinai Peninsula.
The announcement of the Hamas ban came two days after Islamic State affiliated-extremists claimed responsibility for a coordinated attack that killed over 30 people, mostly soldiers, on Thursday. The Egyptian government pointed a finger at the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoot Hamas for the attacks, blaming both for involvement.
“From the very first moment, it was clear that Hamas had a hand in this [attack],” said Ahmed Mousi, a TV presenter on a network close to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, according to Channel 2.
Last Thursday’s attack was the second major operation on Egyptian security forces in Sinai in the last 6 months; 31 soldiers were killed in another operation in October 2014. The continued success of the Sinai-based Islamic militants, despite more than a year of being targeted by massive military operations, highlights the resilience of the militants and represents an embarrassing security failure for Sissi and his administration’s high-profile war on terror.
Sissi immediately laid the blame on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement that has been banned from Egypt and declared a terrorist group. Sissi, then defense minister, ousted Morsi from the presidency in July 2013 after massive nationwide protests against Morsi’s rule.
Following the ouster, the Egyptian president also cracked down on Hamas, destroying hundreds of tunnels into an out of the blockaded Gaza Strip and keeping the Rafah border crossing tightly monitored and often closed. Egypt was also building a buffer zone with the Palestinian enclave.