Egypt became on Sunday the first Arab country to designate the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, a faction of Hamas, as a terrorist group. The court that made the designation accused the Hamas branch of launching terrorist attacks to support the Muslim Brotherhood and executing a bombing that killed 33 security personnel in Sinai in October 2014. The court ruling further isolates Hamas politically. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Egyptian government has labeled a terrorist group since 2013. Under the leadership of Egyptian president Abel Fattah al-Sisi, security coordination and collaboration between Israel and Egypt has greatly increased as the two countries share the common interest of defeating radical Islamist terrorists like Hamas and various Sinai-based groups. In March 2014, an Egyptian court forbade Hamas activities in Egypt, accusing the terrorist group of smuggling weapons and fighters to the terrorist group Ansar Beit al Maqdis, which has declared its loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and has claimed responsibility for major attacks that occurred last Thursday against over a dozen army and police targets in Sinai.
The Sisi administration has also launched a campaign to shut down the vast majority of underground tunnels from Sinai to Gaza that are often used by Hamas to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip and fighters into Sinai. Egypt has begun expanding the buffer zone on the border of Egypt and Gaza in an effort to prevent the flow of fighters and weapons between Sinai and Gaza.
According to a Reuters report last year, Egypt is attempting to politically undermine Hamas rule in Gaza by working with Fatah to support anti-Hamas protests and activities in the Gaza Strip. According to the report, an anonymous Egyptian security official reportedly said, “We cannot get liberated from the terrorism of the Brotherhood in Egypt without ending it in Gaza, which lies on our borders.”
[Photo: Sameh Alawany / Youtube]