MidEast

Egypt FM Puts Hamas on Notice: Threatens “Harsh Response”, “Military and Security” Options

The war of words between Hamas and Egypt – which occasionally slips into more than words – seems to be escalating despite efforts by Hamas to prevent its leaders and Gaza-based preachers from antagonizing Cario. AFP earlier this week noted that that Hamas had redoubled such efforts:

The Hamas rulers of Gaza, where an Israeli blockade worsened after a friendly government in Cairo was overthrown, is doing all it can to avoid a confrontation with Egypt’s army, experts say… Adnan Abu Amr of Umma University in Gaza, said: “Hamas faces a crisis and strangulation that is forcing it to step back and minimise the chances of a clash with Egypt. [They hope] this will stop any unexpected Egyptian moves,” he said. The situation “requires that Hamas appear flexible. Standing up to the Egyptian army is not in their interest.” And Hamas officials have made clear that this is their policy.

Egyptian officials, however, continue to link the Iran-backed Palestinian terror group for violence in the Egyptian-controlled Sinai Peninsula. Cairo’s patience, Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy made clear earlier this week, is wearing thin:

Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy has warned Hamas of a “harsh response” if the Islamist movement that rules the neighboring Gaza Strip threatened Egypt’s national security. The response “will be harsh if we feel that elements within Hamas or other parties are trying to attack Egyptian national security,” Fahmy said in an interview with pan-Arab daily Hayat published Tuesday. It would include “military and security choices and not options that would cause Palestinian citizens to suffer,” said Fahmy, who is in New York attending the UN General Assembly meeting.

Hamas condemned the remarks as a “dangerous… unjustified escalation.”

Analysts have in recent months described Hamas as being at its “most vulnerable point” in years. The decline of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood – with which Hamas enjoyed warm ties, and of which it is an offshoot – has badly eroded the Palestinian group’s position. Cairo has moved to shut down the lucrative smuggling tunnels between the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula and has frequently closed the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, a combination that threatens Hamas’s economic viability.

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