CAIRO – Tightening the noose around besieged Gaza strip, a Cairo court banned Tuesday, March 4, Hamas group from operating in Egypt, as the pivotal Middle East country ramped up crackdown on Islamists.
"The decision harms the image of Egypt and its role towards the Palestinian cause," Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the Gaza-based militant organization, told Reuters.
“It reflects a form of standing against Palestinian resistance (to Israel).”
Today’s ruling was issued as an emergency court looked a private citizen's petition to designate it as a terrorist group.
Along with banning the group, the court decision included seizing Hamas's assets in Egypt.
Over the past years, Egypt refused to recognize Hamas's rule in Gaza after the group won parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories in 2007.
Hamas trounced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's once-dominant Fatah in the 2007 polls and formed its own government before Fatah later joined a Hamas-led national unity government.
But the West, led by the US, refused any contact with the Hamas-led government.
The US and Israel also led an international campaign to impose a crippling siege on the densely-populated Gaza Strip, home to nearly 1.6 million.
After Mubarak’s ouster, Egypt military rulers hosted Hamas's deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuk and eased passage through its Rafah border crossing with Gaza.
Relations were made closer after the election of deposed President Mohamed Morsi in 2012, after Egypt mediated a 2012 truce ending week-long fighting with Israel which lifted some of the blockade restrictions on Gaza.
Ousting Morsi in 2013, the military has destroyed hundreds of smuggling tunnels under its border with the coastal enclave, alleging they were used to smuggle weapons and militants who have taken part in attacks on Egyptian security forces.
In early January, Cairo publicly hosted the first conference of a new anti-Hamas youth group called Tamarud (Rebellion), the name used by the Egyptian youth movement behind last year's mass protests against Mursi, Egypt's first freely elected leader.
Ezzat al-Rishq, member of Hamas's political bureau and close to leader in exile Khaled Meshaal, said "this will open the door to new aggression and war against Gaza," in reference to Israeli military operations against the Strip.
Hamas official Bassem Naim has denounced the court ban.
The move was "an attempt to besiege the resistance, and serves the Israeli occupation," Naim told Agence France Presse (AFP).
Egypt's "decision, which puts it on the side of the Zionist occupier, threatens to distance it from its historic role for the Palestinian cause," he said.
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