MidEast

As Egyptian Army Again Moves Against Smuggling Tunnels, Hamas Officials Lash Out at Egyptian Media

An Arabic-language story published this week in a pan-Arab newspaper blasted the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood for financially supporting the group despite the fragile Egyptian economy. Hamas officials responded, again lashing out against what the Iran-backed terror group describes as a smear campaign being conducted against it by Egyptian media outlets:

Hamas movement strongly condemned the continued smear campaign waged by Egyptian media against the movement supported by foreign parties in an attempt to distort the Palestinian resistance.

Hamas has seen its popularity in Egypt plummet as an ongoing media-based cold war – with Hamas officials on one side and Egyptian security forces on the other – has taken its toll.  The Egyptian army blames Hamas for fomenting violence and facilitating terrorism in the country’s Sinai Peninsula, including an August 2012 attack on an Egyptian convoy that saw 16 security officers killed and two vehicles stolen.

More broadly, Egyptian intelligence and interior officials have linked Hamas to violence conducted on behalf of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, stretching back to the 2011 Egyptian revolution that would eventually see the Brotherhood take control of Egypt’s government. The links are doubly dangerous to Hamas and the Brotherhood’s standing: Hamas is endangered by being blamed for fomenting unrest inside Egypt, and the Brotherhood is damaged by being linked to the increasingly unpopular group.

Meanwhile the Egyptian army this week escalated its campaign against the smuggling tunnels that link the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to the Sinai:

Egypt has intensified a crackdown on smuggling tunnels between its volatile Sinai desert and the Gaza Strip, causing a steep hike in petrol and cement prices in the Palestinian territory.

Palestinians involved in the tunnel business say that the campaign, which began in March and has included flooding of underground passages, was ramped up in the past two weeks before a wave of opposition-led protests in Egypt expected to start on June 30.

[Photo: isawnyu / Flickr]