Hamas leaders on Thursday attacked the Egyptian press for attempting “to sow strife between Egypt and Gaza” by reporting that seven Palestinians detained at the Cairo airport were planning to target vital infrastructures in the country.
Egyptian media reported the arrest of the seven, who arrived in Cairo on a flight from Damascus early Wednesday morning, after they were found carrying maps of installations and documents specifying ways of manufacturing explosives.
But Hamas deputy political bureau chief Moussa Abu-Marzouq said the reports were baseless and amounted to nothing but “an attempt to insert the Palestinian issue in internal Egyptian conflicts.”
“The moment the seven Palestinians were sent to questioning, which is a routine procedure, certain media outlets hurriedly fabricated a wave of lies claiming they had previously entered through the tunnels, saying they were found with maps of sensitive locations and buildings in Egypt,” wrote Abu-Marzouq on his Facebook page Wednesday evening.
Relations between the Palestinian Islamic movement and Egyptian media have been strained since an August 2012 terror attack against an Egyptian army outpost on the Egyptian border with Israel and Gaza which claimed the lives of 16 Egyptian soldiers. The terrorists who carried out the attack were believed to have infiltrated from Gaza to Egypt, which promptly began sealing smuggling tunnels on its side of the border.
While criticizing the smear campaign by Egyptian media, Hamas leaders have always been cautious of flatly accusing the Islamist government of President Mohammed Morsi of incitement.
“We implore all media to examine their information and stop publishing harmful reports about our Palestinian people, sowing strife between us and the Egyptian people,” wrote Abu-Marzouq.
Sami Abu-Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas in Gaza, on Thursday stated that airport officials at Cairo airport grew suspicious of the Palestinians for not having Syrian entry and exit stamps in their Palestinian passports.
“For a while now Egyptian media has been waging a smear campaign against Hamas and its military wing in particular, and against the Palestinian people in general,” said Abu-Zuhri in an official statement.
Abu-Marzouq, the Hamas leader, explained that Syria does not recognize Palestinian passports due to its principled objection to the Oslo process which created the Palestinian state, causing Syrian airport authorities to stamp a separate paper, which the seven Palestinians carried with them on the flight to Cairo.
But Egyptian media on Wednesday reported a more convoluted and suspicious story regarding the seven Palestinians. According to independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, the men had traveled to Iran from Syria, using separate travel documents.
“All the plans [found on the men], pertaining to ambushes, night combats, the range of heavy missiles, plans to attack installations, military training and explosives production are all within the framework of their work in one of the Palestinian security agencies, and not directed at any particular state or at Egypt,” an anonymous security official at Cairo airport told the daily.
Al-Masry Al-Youm identified the men as Nader Abu-Shazifah, Mahmoud Abu-Shazifah, Muhmmad Al-Ghor, Ahmad Miqdad, Muhammad Tafish, Musab Abdul Aal and Muhammad Abdul Aziz Muhammad.
In January, Hamas accused a Coptic organization in Egypt of fabricating and propagating media reports that Hamas had sent 7,000 movement members to take part in pro-Morsi demonstrations in Cairo.