Reuters yesterday conveyed statements from “senior Egyptian security officials” declaring that the country’s military – having largely suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood within Egypt’s borders – will now shift to eroding the Brotherhood’s Palestinian offshoot Hamas.
“Gaza is next,” said one senior security official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “We cannot get liberated from the terrorism of the Brotherhood in Egypt without ending it in Gaza, which lies on our borders.” Asked why Egyptian intelligence is not going after Hamas now, another senior security official said: “Their day will come.”
The Egyptian military has been at odds with the Palestinian terror group for the better part of a year. The Egyptians blame Hamas for facilitating the movement of materials and personnel used by jihadists to launch attacks in the Egyptian-controlled Gaza Strip, and have moved to economically and politically suffocate the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in response. Hamas officials for their part have attempted to stem the diplomatic damage, but have acknowledged that Cairo’s campaign has been largely successful in degrading the group’s capabilities. The Reuters report will also be read against a sharply divided policy discussion in Washington whether Cairo’s subsequent army-backed efforts to suppress the Brotherhood, launched after the July 2013 removal of Egypt’s Brotherhood-linked government, could successfully decapitate the group. Some academics and analysts argued that the Brotherhood would – per one CNN-published analysis – remain a “force to be reckoned with… [which would] most likely weather” the political turbulence that followed the removal of then-President Mohammed Morsi. Other analysts – and Washington Institute fellow Eric Trager was prominent here – suggested a range of scenarios that would see the Muslim Brotherhood more or less decapitated, in no small part due to the organization’s rigid hierarchical structure. That the Egyptian military has shifted its focus from the Brotherhood suggests that empirical evidence may end up favoring the latter analysis.
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