Sunday, August 4, 2013

Hamas Embroiled In Internal Egyptian Struggles



by N. Shamn


Introduction
 
Since the August 5, 2012 terror attack at an Egyptian army checkpoint in Rafah, in which 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed, Hamas has been at the center of criticism by both the public and the media in Egypt. Accusations that Hamas was involved in the attack[1] have brought in their wake allegations that the movement is acting deliberately to harm Egyptian security and sovereignty, and is interfering in Egypt's internal affairs – all in the service of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) interests. 

Criticism of Hamas in Egypt during the year-long rule of president Muhammad Mursi was focused on four central issues: accusations against Hamas regarding the August 2012 attack in Rafah and the abduction of Egyptian soldiers; accusations that it helped Mursi suppress the opposition in Egypt; accusations that it conducted smuggling and other tunnel activity harmful to Egyptian security; and accusations that it had helped smuggle Hamas and MB prisoners out of jail in the beginning of the January 2011 revolution in Egypt.  

It was Hamas's connection to the MB that led elements in Egypt to accuse the Mursi regime of receiving help from Hamas to act against Egypt's top military echelons and against the Egyptian opposition in order to stabilize his regime. Thus, for example, there were claims that Hamas had carried out the attack on the Egyptian army checkpoint in Rafah so as to create a pretext for Mursi to remove the top military echelons – which happened a few days after the Rafah attack. In addition, the Mursi regime's foot-dragging in its investigation of the attack raised fears that this regime was covering for Hamas and trying to prevent the conspiracy behind the attack from being exposed.

Additionally, reports of Hamas involvement in the Rafah attack and the fear that the Mursi regime is covering for it apparently contributed to the tension in recent months between the Mursi regime and the Egyptian army.[2]

In advance of the June 30, 2013 protests that led to Mursi's removal from power, it was greatly feared in Egypt that external elements, including Hamas, would intervene to suppress the demonstrations. This fear found expression following Mursi's ouster, on July 3, 2013 in accusations against Hamas charging Hamas with continued backing for the MB in Egypt in order to harm the army and restore the MB to power. Furthermore, there were several reports of arrests of Hamas members who had entered Egypt illegally in order to aid the MB and carry out operations aimed at harming Egyptian security. 

On July 26, the Cairo Appeals Court ordered Mursi detained for 15 days so that he could be interrogated on charges that include passing information to Hamas in order to carry out hostile activity in Egypt and collaborating with Hamas in the January 2011 prison break-ins that led to the escape of prisoners, including Mursi himself from Wadi Al-Natroun prison where he was incarcerated Mursi is also being accused in the abduction and murder of several prisoners, officers and soldiers.[3]  

Hamas, for its part, has consistently rejected all accusations against it, calling them attempts to harm its reputation, and claims that it is not only elements within Egypt but forces in the PA that are behind this character assassination. Hamas protests that it is not interfering in Egypt's internal affairs, and that it would do nothing to harm its security. At the same time, top officials in the Hamas government in Gaza are continuing to criticize Egyptian operations to close the tunnels on the Egypt-Gaza border, and to place restrictions on the Rafah crossing. In this, Hamas is backed up by the MB and its associates, who reject the various accusations against Hamas and called the matter part of a media war against Hamas aimed at instigating conflict between the Egyptian people and Hamas. 

This paper will present accusations heard in Egypt against Hamas, both before and after the ouster of president Mursi, in addition to Hamas's reaction to these accusations and attempts by the MB and its associates to defend Hamas. 

The Accusations Directed At Hamas

The Egyptian media carried numerous reports claiming that Hamas was behind several activities that infringed upon Egyptian sovereignty and harmed its security. The main incident that provoked tension between Hamas and Egypt under the MB government was the terrorist attack in Rafah in August 2012 that claimed the lives of 16 Egyptian soldiers. This tension intensified following accusations that Hamas was involved in additional security incidents, such as the abduction of seven Egyptian soldiers in Rafah in May 2013, the reported abduction of Egyptian police officers in Sinai at the beginning of the revolution and their detention in the Gaza Strip, and a March 2013attempt to smuggle fabric used for manufacturing Egyptian army uniforms to Gaza the via one of the border tunnels.

The hostility towards Hamas in Egypt was evident, for example, in a March 22, 2013 sermon delivered by a preacher in Al-Tahrir Square calling upon Egyptian citizens to kill every Hamas activist they encountered because of Hamas' support for the MB and its "violation of Egypt's sanctity." He also urged Gaza residents to take to the streets and topple the Hamas government because of its responsibility for the killing of Egyptian soldiers.[4]

1. Hamas Is Responsible For Terrorist Attack In Rafah And Abduction Of Egyptian Soldiers

The Weekly Al-Ahram Al-Arabi Publishes Names Of Senior Hamas Officials Allegedly Responsible For Rafah Terrorist Attack 

Already in August 2012, immediately following the terrorist attack in Rafah, accusations were made in Egypt that Hamas was responsible for the attack. These accusations continue to pop up intermittently in the Egyptian press. The most prominent example is a series of investigative reports published by the weekly Al-Ahram Al-Arabi in March-April 2013, which brought the tension between Hamas and Egypt to the top of the media agenda. The investigations pointed to direct Hamas involvement in the August 2012 Rafah attack as well as in the prison break-ins that occurred in January 2011, in the course of the anti-Mubarak revolution, during which Hamas and MB prisoners were smuggled out of jail, including ousted Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi. These investigations set off reverberations throughout Egypt and prompted its attorney general to order an investigation of the weekly's editor, Ashraf Bader, and to demand that he present evidence to substantiate the publications.[5]

The first of these investigative reports, which appeared on March 16, 2013 under the headline "We Reveal the Names of Those Who Perpetrated the Massacre in Rafah," named three senior Hamas officials who were allegedly involved in the attack: Ayman Nofal, commander of Hamas's military wing in the Central Gaza Strip, who was incarcerated in an Egyptian prison between 2008-2011 and escaped during the revolution; Muhammad Abu Shamala, who has been a senior Hamas official for 39 years, and was detained in Israel for nine months and in the PA for three years; and Ra'ed Al-'Attar, dubbed "the serpent's head," who is thought to have masterminded the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit and to head the Hamas smuggling network.

This report claimed that the Rafah attack in had been an act of "revenge against the Egyptian army for destroying the Palestinian [smuggling] tunnels."[6] It also claimed that Hamas was responsible for carrying out numerous other terrorist acts in Rafah, including the repeated bombings of the Egyptian gas pipeline in 2011-2012 with the aid of jihadi groups in Sinai.[7] The same issue of the weekly also included an interview with a former senior Egyptian army officer General Mahmoud Khalaf, who argued that "without the tunnels such activities would not have taken place" and that "the person responsible for the terrorist attack in Rafah is located in Gaza and he should be extradited [to Egypt]."[8]



Front cover of Al-Ahram Al-'Arabi: the names the perpetrators of the Rafah massacre
 
A week later, in its issue of March 23, 2013, Al-Ahram Al-Arabi published "the complete list of the perpetrators of the terrorist attack" in Rafah, which included an additional eight names of Hamas activists.[9] This issue described the attack on the Egyptian soldiers by terrorists who infiltrated Egypt from Gaza via the tunnels, and then infiltrated into Israel with the aim of kidnapping Israeli soldiers and smuggling them into Egypt and from there into the Gaza Strip. The report claimed that one of the objectives of the terrorist attack had been to "exploit the incident in order to portray the [Supreme] Council of the [Egyptian] Armed Forces, headed by General Tantawi, as derelict and thereby retire its commanders… which is what actually happened," and another objective was to "free a number of prisoners who had been [convicted] of terror activities… [and whose liberation] was vigorously opposed by General Tantawi and the Council of the Armed Forces."

This issue also included an interview with 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades senior official Ayman Nofal, who had been mentioned as one of those involved in the terrorist attack. Nofal denied any involvement in the attack on his part or that of Hamas, and claimed that "a campaign of defamation is being conducted [in Egypt] against Hamas and the Al-Qassam Brigades fighters, due to their ties with the MB, and rumors of this sort are being used [to promote] internal Egyptian political objectives." Nofal added that Hamas intended to file a law suit "in order to uncover the truth and clear its name of this crime."

Following the uproar sparked by the first investigative report, the editor of the weekly, Ashraf Bader, clarified that all the information had come from reliable sources and that it was the weekly's right to unmask the murderers, saying: "We will not be intimidated, we will not retract [our claims], we will persist in our resistance and continue transmitting our message, we will lay bare the ugly face [of the murderers], their treacherous eyes and their hands stained with the blood of the innocents… Senior Hamas officials have to know that is no justification for harming Egyptian sovereignty…"[10]
Hamas Is Responsible For The Abduction Of Egyptian Soldiers

In its April 6, 2013 issue, Al-Ahram Al-Arabi published the names and details of nine Egyptian army and police officers who were kidnapped in the course of the January 2011 prison breaks and held in a secret hiding place in the Gaza Strip so they could be traded for political prisoners. The article presented the testimony of the wife of a kidnapped officer, who claimed that the kidnappers had contacted her family and demanded $250,000 for each kidnap victim. She also claimed that she had met with the Egyptian Minister of the Interior who had clearly implied that Hamas was involved in the kidnapping.[11] It should be noted that, despite the media reports, it is not clear whether this kidnapping actually took place. 

Many in Egypt have also accused Hamas of kidnapping the seven Egyptian soldiers and police in Rafah in May 2013. The accusers included strategic expert General 'Abd Al-Rafe' Darwish, who claimed that Hamas had carried out the kidnapping with the help of its agents in Sinai in order to harm the Egyptian army and embroil it in protracted military operations.[12]

Egyptian Columnists: Hamas Is Working In Mursi's Service Against The Egyptian Army
Many articles in the Egyptian press claimed that Hamas's activity against the Egyptian army, both the terrorist attack in Rafah and the kidnapping of Egyptian soldiers, served Mursi's administration and was intended to provide him with a pretext to fire the leaders of the army, who are considered holdovers from the old regime. Since the Rafah attack, the Egyptian media has persistently claimed that Hamas carried it out in order to provide Mursi with justification to depose the army's senior echelon. A few days after the attack Mursi did give instructions to retire Muhammad Hussein Tantawi, who served as defense minister, chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and commander-in-chief of the army, as well as Sami 'Anan, who was chief of staff. Likewise, following the kidnapping of the seven Egyptian soldiers in May 2013, there were those who argued that the objective of the kidnapping was to bring about the ouster of the current defense minister, Al-Sisi.[13]

Ibrahim 'Issa, editor of the daily Al-Dustour Al-Asly, wrote: "Hamas has not fired a single bullet at Israel as part of resistance activity since it managed to come to power years ago… It strikes deals with states and regimes and then frees itself of its agreements, comes out against its allies and sells its positions to the highest bidder… Therefore it should come as no surprise that accusations are directed at the Hamas movement regarding its responsibility for the massacre of 16 soldiers in Rafah. No one is above suspicion, and Hamas is neither a sacred nor a divine movement and it is not innocent of treachery… It is a branch of its parent movement, the MB, and operates only on behalf of [MB] interests. We know full well that the MB places itself above every homeland or nationality and above all principals or values. Therefore it is totally legitimate for the Egyptians to pose questions about Hamas's role in this criminal action [i.e., the terrorist attack in Rafah]… Also, the silence of the [Egyptian] government… with regard to the pursuit of those who perpetrated the massacre of our soldiers in Rafah prompts [us] to persist in directing accusations at Hamas.[14]

Magdi Saber, a columnist in the daily Al-Wafd, wrote in a similar vein following the  May 2013 abduction of the seven Egyptian: "There's no doubt that the [Mursi] government's reluctance to firmly confront the terrorists in Sinai, who have ties  with Hamas, or some of the takfiri factions in Gaza, indicate the [Egyptian] regime's fear of revealing the link between these murderers and what occurred in the January [2011] revolution. These murderers were among those who entered Sinai via the tunnels and attacked [Egyptian] prisons in order to free senior MB officials and smuggle out Hamas and Hizbullah agents. The link between the regime and the arrogant Hamas, which played fast and loose with [the security of] our land, with our honor and with the blood of our sons, is clear. The tie [between the regime and Hamas] is clear and definite, and explains why the regime does not respond firmly to these terrorists and murderers… [Their] interest is one and the cooperation [between them] persists, and the fact that the regime responded to the killing of 16 soldiers [by using it] as an excuse to sack the generals [Tantawi] and 'Anan is sufficient [evidence of this]. It's possible that the most recent incident, involving the kidnapping of the seven soldiers, is an additional premeditated [act meant to serve as an] excuse to sack Al-Sisi, whom the regime views as the final thorn in its side after he insisted on destroying the tunnels and on not turning the country into a MB [state]… What transpired unfortunately proves that an [Egyptian] state no longer exists, because the state has been abandoned to the hands of Hamas and the takfiri groups in Sinai…"[15]

2. Hamas Aids Mursi Against The Opposition

Alongside the claim that Hamas operated against the Egyptian army in the service of the Mursi regime, the movement was accused of helping the Mursi regime suppress the opposition to it. For example, in January 2013, during demonstrations against Mursi opposite the presidential palace on the anniversary of the revolution, it was reported that Hamas had sent 7,000 of its activists to help suppress the protests, a report that was denied by Hamas.[16] According to a February report in the daily Al-Dustour, Hamas received $250 million from Qatar to protect Mursi and stabilize his regime.[17] Likewise, in March 2013, Al-Dustour published what it alleged were secret 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades documents, according to which hundreds of Hamas activists had been sent to Egypt to aid the MB, and some of them had even been arrested by the security forces in Sinai and other regions where violent demonstrations occurred.[18]


Alleged secret document of the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades indicating its involvement in Egypt
In anticipation of the June 30, 2013 demonstrations organized by the Tamarrud campaign and the opposition organizations to mark the first anniversary of Mursi's advent to power and to call for his ouster,[19] there was great apprehension in Egypt about possible intervention by outside parties, including Hamas, in the suppression of the protests. It was reported in the Egyptian press that the army was acting firmly to prevent the infiltration of outside elements to Egypt via the Gaza tunnels. Some reports also alleged that Hamas had already dispatched thousands of its activists to assist Mursi,[20] and accusations were made that a delegation of senior Hamas officials had recently arrived in Egypt to coordinate positions with Mursi as part of preparations for June 30. It should be noted that senior Hamas officials departed Egypt on June 18, 2013 after hundreds of Egyptian citizens demonstrated against them opposite the hotel where they were staying.[21]

Egyptian Journalist: "Hamas Has Put An End To Its Existence In Egypt"; "[Hamas] Officials Will Never Again Set Foot On Egyptian Soil"

Journalist 'Imad Gad, an expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, wrote in the daily Al-Tahrir following the June 2013 visit to Egypt by senior Hamas officials: "The visit by the Hamas delegation, which included figures of [the movement's] military wing, the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, is a visit about which the Egyptian security apparatuses do not have sufficient details. It is likely that the purpose of the visit was to discuss the role that [Hamas] activists would play in opposing Mursi's detractors. That is, [the MB] discussed relying on the assistance of armed Hamas [militants] in striking at [Egyptian] citizens who [intend to] come out in demand of early presidential elections… and in order to kill Egyptians on June 30… This is a crime against Egypt and its people, and the people will not forgive [Hamas] for it. Hamas has thus put an end to its existence in Egypt. The [MB] regime will undoubtedly be replaced and Mursi deposed, because such is the desire of the Egyptians. The feet of [Hamas] officials will never again set foot on Egyptian soil, because the Egyptian people will regard this movement as a terror group…"[22]

Even after Mursi's ouster, Hamas was accused of dispatching its activists to Egypt in order to assist the MB in staging the support demonstrations for Mursi calling for his reinstatement. The Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm, known to be critical of the MB, reported that three 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades activists had helped provide security for MB General Guide Badi' during a speech he delivered on July 5, 2013 in Rabi'a Al-Adawiyya Square as part of mass pro-Mursi demonstrations.[23]

Hamas also continued to be accused of harming Egyptian security and the Egyptian army, especially in  Sinai, where a significant rise in attacks against the Egyptian army occurred following Mursi's ouster. A senior Egyptian army officer accused it of setting Sinai ablaze in collaboration with jihadi elements there.[24] The commander of the Egyptian Third Army accused Hamas of smuggling Grad rockets into Egypt for the MB's use in Egypt's internal struggles, and related that the army had seized 19 Grad missiles that were on their way from Suez to Cairo.[25] In Ismailia, a Hamas activist who infiltrated into Egypt via the tunnels was arrested with photos of military vehicles on the Egypt-Israel border and of the Suez Canal maritime passageway in his possession.[26] The daily Al-Ahram reported that security forces in the Masr Al-Gadida neighborhood in Cairo had arrested four Hamas activists who sought to carry out a terror attack.[27] On July 13, 2013, it was reported in the media that an Egyptian army airplane had flown over Gaza for several minutes. According to Al-Watan, the flight's objective was to thwart Hamas militants attempting to infiltrate Sinai, in light of intelligence that they planned to strike security targets there on directives from the MB.[28]

3. Hamas's Tunnel Activity Harms Egypt's Security 

Extensive criticism was also voiced in Egypt over Hamas's smuggling activity via the tunnels on the Egypt-Gaza border. Mursi's rise to power raised expectations in Hamas for closer relations with Egypt and significant alleviations of the restrictions on Gaza residents. However, it soon became clear that the Mursi government's agenda did not correspond to that of the Hamas movement. Hamas, which controls the tunnels, insists on their ongoing operation as long as the Rafah crossing is not open to the unrestricted passage of people and goods, while the Mursi administration – interested in preserving the peace agreement with Israel and the American aid to Egypt – had to pay certain prices, such as closing the smuggling tunnels between Rafah and Gaza.[29]

This tunnel activity was described by the Egyptian media as jeopardizing Egypt's national security. The weekly Al-Ahram Al-Arabi, for instance, claimed after the August 2012 Rafah attack that some of the perpetrators had entered Egypt via the tunnels.[30] It was likewise reported that, in March 2013, Egyptian security forces in Al-'Arish had thwarted an attempt to smuggle into Gaza fabrics similar to those from which Egyptian army and police uniforms are made,[31] and that the army had consequently decided to change the color of the uniforms worn by the Third Army troops in Suez.[32]
 
In an article titled "Destroy the Treachery Tunnels," Al-Ahram columnist Fahmi Al-Sayyed wrote that the smuggling of the fabrics into Gaza was treachery that could entangle Egypt in superfluous conflicts, and that Hamas was one of the parties involved in it: "The smuggling of the fabrics... is another chapter in the ongoing [plan] to destroy [Egypt's] military institutions… This is a major betrayal of the valiant Egyptian army on the part of our Palestinian brethren, [including] Hamas... Fatah, the ['Izz Al-Din] Al-Qassam [Brigades], and the other Palestinian movements… The sole [objective] of smuggling [Egyptian] army uniforms [into Gaza] is so Palestinian fighters will use them in actions against the Zionist entity or against the Egyptian people and thereby plunge the Egyptian army into a burning furnace of internecine warfare among the people and an external [war] with Israel, because those carrying out these actions will [seem to be] wearing the official uniforms of the army and the Egyptian police… Destroy these tunnels and tell the Egyptian people the truth with regards to the murderers of the soldiers in Sinai…"[33]


The new military uniforms introduced following the failed attempt to smuggle uniform fabric into Gaza (image: Al-Ahram, Egypt, March 18, 2013).

4. Breaking Hamas, MB Prisoners Out Of Egyptians Jails At Beginning Of Revolution

An additional accusation directed at Hamas is that it helped break Hamas and MB prisoners out of Egyptian jails at the beginning of the January 2011 revolution, including former president Muhammad Mursi himself, who at the time was incarcerated at the Wadi Al-Natroun prison. Many claimed that the prison breaks were a carefully planned action by Hamas which had endangered Egypt's national security. For example, an April 6, 2013 investigative report in Al-Ahram Al-Arabi claimed that the prison breaks were perpetrated by Hamas and the MB – with the participation of Brigade 95, a clandestine armed MB organization that is alleged to have been involved in violence against demonstrators at the beginning of the revolution – with the help of Hizbullah and Al-Qaeda activists. The weekly named some of the perpetrators, who had allegedly acted in coordination with groups subordinate to senior Hamas official Ayman Nofal.[34] A week later, the weekly published testimony by a prisoner, Nasr Sayyed Ahmad, who was incarcerated in a cell next to Nofal, according to which the jail breaks were organized and well planned by Hamas.[35]

Recently, on June 23, 2013, the Criminal Appeals Court in Ismailia ruled that these accusations against Hamas were accurate and that the prison breaks had indeed been perpetrated by foreign elements from Hamas, the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the Salafi organization Jaysh Al-Islam[36] and Hizbullah, in connivance with Egyptian criminal elements, jihadi organizations, Salafis and the MB.[37]

Hamas Rejects The Accusations: The Media Are Spreading Rumors And Lies

In recent months, Hamas repeatedly clarified that it totally refrains from intervening in Egyptian internal affairs, that its relations with Egypt are better than ever, and that all the accusations against it are part of a plot by the Egyptian media, which is spreading false reports about it. On June 14, 2013, Hamas issued a communiqué condemning these media attacks: "Some media, including newspapers, websites and some of the writers and journalists, are working to spread rumors, publish false information… and invent incidents that have no connection with reality… This [is being done] as part of a plan against the Hamas movement, its senior officials and its path, with the objective of damaging its reputation and positions… The movement has no connection with events that occurred and are occurring in our Egyptian sister[-state]. We do not intervene in the internal affairs of Arab and Islamic countries, and all the information that was published regarding Hamas in Egypt is the stuff of invention and unadulterated falsehood."[38]

Figures in Hamas and the MB also accuse the Fatah movement in general, and former senior Fatah official Muhammad Dahlan in particular, of feeding false information to the Egyptian media about Hamas in order to damage its reputation. Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahar, for example, accused Dahlan of setting up a spy network in the Gaza Strip and providing false information to the Egyptian media about Hamas.[39] 'Issam Al-Arian, the deputy chairman of the MB party, accused Dahlan of using funds provided by the UAE to plant hundreds of armed operatives in Sinai, and suggested that Dahlan may have been involved in the kidnapping of the seven Egyptian soldiers in May 2013.[40] Other MB figures claimed that Dahlan's people had organized the kidnapping to undermine the stability of the Mursi government.[41] Hamas spokesperson Mushir Al-Masri told CNN that Hamas has obtained documents proving Fatah's involvement in disseminating the mendacious rumors about Hamas that were reported in the Egyptian media.[42]

Even after Mursi's ouster, Hamas continued to deny its involvement in Egypt, stressing that its members were not operating in Egypt or in Sinai and that none of its members had been killed in Egypt.[43] In a communiqué issued by Hamas after Mursi's ouster, it continued to accuse Fatah of spreading mendacious rumors about it: "Senior Fatah officials are fabricating false stories regarding the Hamas movement and about the resistance, and are feeding them to the Egyptian media in order to incite it against the Palestinian people."[44]

In a press conference on July 30, Hamas revealed documents that ostensibly confirm the involvement of Fatah and PA leaders in the political and media campaign waged against it in Egypt, a campaign that "contributed to the incitement, hatred and violence not only against Hamas but against the entire Palestinian people." The documents were presented by Hamas senior official Salah Al-Bardawil, who said they were only a few of hundreds of documents that Hamas has in its possession and which contain clear proof of this involvement. He claimed that some of the Fatah and PA officials involved in the affair had spied after Egyptian parties, passing documents and protocols to other Egyptian parties. He called on Egyptian leaders to "stop the virulent campaign against Hamas and the Palestinian people that is based upon forged documents."[45] The PA General Intelligence denied any connection to the matter, and claimed that Hamas had forged documents to compensate for the uncovering of its interference in the affairs of Egypt and other Arab countries.[46]   



One of the documents presented at the Hamas press conference (Paltoday.ps, July 30, 2013.)

Al-Zahar: Even When A Couple Gets Divorced In Egypt They Blame Us

Hamas Prime Minister Isma'il Haniya also condemned the accusations in the Egyptian media against Hamas and emphasized Egypt's vast importance for the Palestinians and for the Islamic nation. He said: "Anyone who betrays Egypt betrays the [Islamic] religion, and whoever sheds the blood of its soldiers is the equivalent of someone who disrespects Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa."[47]
 
Haniya's deputy, Ziyad Al-Thatha, said on another occasion that the Egyptian parties who accused Hamas of responsibility for the terrorist attack in Rafah did so for internal reasons that had no connection with Gaza. He added: "This campaign [against Hamas] has produced the opposite results, as the forces of the Egyptian opposition hastened to come out against this campaign and rebut its [accusations]… This campaign helped demonstrate that Egypt was rallying around the Palestinian resistance."[48] Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahar said in jest that in Egypt they accused Hamas of everything: "Even if a man divorces his wife, they accuse Hamas of causing the split."[49] Hamas's military wing, the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, also rejected the accusations directed at the movement. In a video it published, it attacked the editor of the weekly Al-Ahram Al-Arabi and claimed that his accusations against Hamas "were dreams and illusions that nest in [his] brain and correspond to the Zionist propaganda that strives to drive a wedge between the Palestinian resistance and its Egyptian and Arab brethren."[50]

The Hamas Leadership Attempts To Reduce Tensions With The Egyptian Army

Additionally, it was reported that Hamas attempted to calm the atmosphere by holding meetings with senior Egyptian officials, including a meeting that took place on March 16, 2013 between Hamas Political Bureau head Khaled Mash'al and the MB General Guide Muhammad Badi', in which the former emphasized that Hamas does not intervene in Egypt's internal affairs and fully collaborates with its security apparatus.[51] According to the Egyptian daily Al-Watan, Mash'al and Al-Zahar asked Mursi to organize a meeting between the Hamas leadership and Egyptian Defense Minister Al-Sisi and other top brass, in order to assuage the Egyptian army's anger at Hamas, but the army refused the initiative.[52]

Hamas Spokesman: We Will Continue Operating The Tunnels; No Force In The World Will Deny Gaza Weapons

While rejecting the accusations, Hamas spokespersons severely criticized the Egyptian army's activity against the tunnels. In an April 11 interview with the Egyptian daily Al-Watan, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri emphasized that Hamas continues to use the tunnels, and even smuggles weapons through them, as long as the Rafah crossing is not open without restrictions: "We do not accept the destruction of the tunnels; [in fact] we vigorously oppose it. We will consent to their destruction [only] when an alternative exists, in other words, the opening of the crossing to people and goods. When this occurs we will not need them… The issue of security at the borders has existed since the days of Mubarak. Why does it arise precisely at this time?… There's no doubt that pressures are being applied by a number of parties in Egypt to close the tunnels and defame us… 

"We don't deny that we have obtained weapons… We seek weapons and work to bring them to Gaza from anywhere, no matter what people say… This is mandatory. Why are the Egyptians dismayed [that weapons are being bought into Gaza]? If a crime is committed [against the Gaza residents], the arrival of weapons must be facilitated… We obtained arms in the era of the Mubarak regime, and it's natural that we should [also] obtain them during Mursi's rule, namely after the revolution… The siege still exists and we have demanded that Mursi lift it. No force in the world will deny weapons to Gaza. This is something that has to be clear…"[53]

Referring to the  2011 prison break-ins, Abu Zuhri said: "The matter of the prison break-ins in Egypt is an old one. Why does it come up now? An attempt was made to revive it and exploit it for the purpose of defaming [Hamas]. Those who broke into the jails were relatives of the prisoners, and this was confirmed by confessions they gave. Even if there were Palestinian prisoners who escaped and managed to reach the border and enter the Palestinian territories, what do you expect of them? Some of them were  arrested without justification during the Mubarak era. Should we demand of them to remain in solitary confinement?"[54]

Following Mursi's ouster, Abu Zuhri denied that Hamas had smuggled Grad missiles into Egypt (including Sinai), saying: "The movement denies any connection with these missiles. It should be pointed out that the Al-Qassam [Brigades] do not manufacture Grad missiles. These missiles are purchased by the Palestinian factions, and there are more of them in Sinai than in Gaza."[55]

The MB And Its Affiliates Defend Hamas

The MB and writers affiliated with it rejected the accusations directed in Egypt against Hamas claiming that this was part of a media war that is being waged against it. When former President Mursi was asked why the results of the investigation into the terror attack in Rafah have remained unpublished, he rejected the claim that there was a lack of transparency. He explained that it was a matter of national security and that the information would be provided upon the completion of the investigation. 

Nevertheless, he warned that if it emerged that foreign bodies were involved in the terror attack, Egypt would take strong action against them. [56] Mursi's foreign policy advisor, 'Issam Al-Haddad, also took a position in defense of Hamas, saying that certain parties in Egypt insisted on involving this movement in matters unconnected to it, and that Hamas has on numerous occasions declared its concern for Egyptian security.[57]

Hamas Has An Interest That Egypt Remain Strong

In an article posted on the movement's website, Makarim Al-Diri, a member of the MB's Freedom and Justice party, blamed parties other than Hamas for harming Egypt's security: "Conflict between Hamas and the Egyptian people is the objective of the Israeli policy, which Mubarak adopted… As a result of this policy, which is hostile to Hamas and to anyone endorsing the Islamic project, Hamas gets blamed every time a terror action occurs… This, in complete disregard of the fact that there are criminal groups in Sinai who are subordinate to international intelligence apparatuses and are operated by the gang of the Palestinian traitor [Muhammad] Dahlan, the Libyan Qadhaf Al-Dam [cousin of the former Libyan leader, who is residing in Egypt], and others who don't want Egypt to play the role of leader of the Arab and Islamic world… It is in Hamas' interest that Egypt remain strong and a regional leader, because this gives Hamas power against the Zionist enemy…"[58]

Those Who Accuse Hamas Do Not Represent The Real Egypt

Egyptian Islamist columnist Fahmi Huwaidi, who is affiliated with the MB, wrote in the independent daily Al-Shurouq a review of the accusations directed at Hamas in the Egyptian media, and claimed that senior Palestinian officials, including the deputy chair of the Hamas political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzouq, had told him that they completely denied these allegations. 

Huwaidi wrote that he himself saw two documents that were claimed to indicate Hamas participation in protecting Mursi and the MB in Egypt and which turned out to be forgeries. He added: "All those who want to demonize the Palestinians and incite anger against Hamas do not convey the [position] of the real Egypt, [the Palestinians'] 'big sister.' They do not speak in our name and they are fuloul [remnants of the old Mubarak regime] who plotted against the Egyptian people and remain a burden on its revolution."[59]

The Charges Against Hamas – Part Of Media War Against It

Gamal Sultan, editor of the daily Al-Misriyyoun, claimed that the charges against Hamas are part of a media war that is being waged in Egypt against it. Nevertheless, he also criticized certain declarations by senior Hamas officials and their visits to the office of the MB General Guide: "From the very first moment, the Hamas movement was accused of involvement in the murder of Egyptian soldiers in Rafah. I'm sure that this is nothing but a media war aimed at settling accounts with the MB and with the administration of President Muhammad Mursi. It is inconceivable that Hamas is involved in such a dangerous action [the Rafah attack]. It is not in its interest, and the nature of its relations with Egypt and its security apparatuses, from the Mubarak era until now, cannot be reconciled with such actions. I hope that all parties to the political struggle in Egypt refrain from using the Hamas card in their internal struggles… [At the same time,] there is no justification for a visit by a high-level Hamas delegation to the office of the MB General Guide at a time when the [Egyptian] media is in an uproar about [Hamas's] special relations with the [MB] movement…" 

About the smuggled fabrics affair, Sultan said: "The response of the Hamas spokesman [in this matter]... is perplexing… [His claim] that these uniforms were meant for making children's clothing was irresponsible, unwise and suspect… Such an incident is dangerous, and for the first time the Egyptian army was forced to alter the uniforms of its soldiers… My hope is that our brethren in Hamas perform a comprehensive and serious re-assessment of their position on Egyptian affairs in general and their relationship with the MB in particular. I'm saying this for the benefit of the Palestinian resistance in general and Hamas's standing in the Egyptian national conscience in particular."[60]

Endnotes:
[2] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 960, "In Egypt, Tension Between Mursi Regime And Military, And Calls To Restore Armed Forces To Power," April 30, 2013. The power struggle between Mursi and the army was also manifest in disagreements between them about the extent of the army's activity against the tunnels, with the regime pushing for less activity and the army pushing for more, and also about the desirable option for liberating the soldiers abducted in Sinai, with the army advocating a military operation and the regime pushing for negotiating with the kidnappers. According to the Egyptian daily Al-Watan, following the soldiers' abduction in May 2012, Egyptian Defense Minister Al-Sisi sought the regime's approval for a military operation to "purge"' Sinai, but Mursi refused, preferring to pursue diplomatic means. Al-Watan (Egypt), May 18, 2013.
[3] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 26, 2013.
[5] Al-Shurouq (Egypt), March 18, 2013.
[6] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 936, "To Hamas's Chagrin, Egypt Increases Anti-Tunnel Activity On Gaza Border", Border," February 20, 2013.
[7] The natural gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel and Jordan was blown up at least 15 times in 2011-2012 by jihadist elements in Sinai.
[8] Al-Ahram Al-Arabi (Egypt), March 16, 2013.
[9] The activists' names are: Hussam Darwish, Mustafa 'Abd Al-Fattah, 'Imad Hassan Al Masa'id, Mahmoud Hassan Al-Amir, Ibrahim Muhammad Al-Ziyani, Najy Sayyed Abd' Al-Wahed, Muhammad Sayyed 'Aziz and Sallah 'Abd Al-Zaher Al-Barghouti.
[10] Al-Ahram Al-Arabi (Egypt), March 23, 2013. On March 30, 2013, the weekly published an interview with another military expert, General Hussam Swailem, who also contends that Hamas was involved in the Rafah attack and that the weekly's reports on this matter are accurate. He claims that proof of this is the fact that after killing the Egyptian soldiers, the perpetrators advanced towards the Kerem Shalom crossing under covering mortar fire from Gaza, and that "it is inconceivable that such firing should take place without the consent of Hamas, which controls everything, just as the operation of the tunnels is directly subordinate to [Hamas] Prime Minister Isma'il Haniya." Al-Ahram Al-Arabi (Egypt), March 30, 2013.
[11] Al-Ahram Al-Arabi (Egypt), April 6, 2013.
[12] Al-Fagr (Egypt), May 21, 2013.
[13] Al-Watan (Egypt), May 15, 2013.
[14] Al-Dustour Al-Asly (Egypt), March 18, 2013.
[15] Al-Wafd (Egypt), May 24, 2013.
[16] Elaph.com, February 1, 2013; Alsbah.net, January 26, 2013.
[17] Al-Dustour (Egypt), February 3, 2013
[18]  Al-Dustour (Egypt), March 4, 2013.
[20] Al-Wafd (Egypt), June 13, 2013.
[21] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), June 21, 2013.
[22] Al-Tahrir (Egypt), June 19, 2013.
[23] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), June 7, 2013.
[24] Al-Hayat (Egypt), July 11, 2013.
[25]  Alaahd.ps, July 17, 2013.
[26] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 10, 2013.
[27] Al-Ahram (Egypt), July 3, 2013.
[28] Al-Watan (Egypt), July 13, 2013.
[29]  Following the Rafah attack, Mursi initiated a military operation to eradicate the terror cells in northern Sinai, as part of which the Egyptian military destroyed many tunnels along the border with Gaza. Six months later, in February 2013, the military intensified its activity against the tunnels and flooded many of them with sewage, a measure that outraged Hamas, which even described it as a renewal of the siege upon Gaza by the Egyptians. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 936, "To Hamas's Chagrin, Egypt Increases Anti-Tunnel Activity On Gaza Border," February 20, 2013. After Mursi's ouster, the army once again stepped up its activity against the tunnels. According to one report, it has managed to destroy 90% of them. Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 15, 2013.
[30] Al-Ahram Al-Arabi (Egypt), March 23, 2013.
[31] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), March 18, 2013.
[32] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), March 18, 2013.
[33] Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 24, 2013.
[34] Al-Ahram Al-Arabi (Egypt), April 6, 2013. On June 9, 2013, former Egyptian minister of the interior Mahmoud Wagdy testified that Hamas and Hizbullah had been involved in the January 2011 prison break-ins. Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), June 9, 2013.
[35] Al-Ahram Al-Arabi (Egypt), April 13, 2013.
[36] Jaysh Al-Islam is a Salafi-jihadi organization from Gaza that was first mentioned in June 2006 when it announced its participation in the abduction of Gilad Shalit. The organization was also active in Sinai and took part in planning terrorist attacks against Israelis, and was also accused of responsibility for detonating a car bomb outside a church in Alexandria on January 1, 2011.
[37] Al-Ahram (Egypt), June 23, 2013.
[38] Palinfo.com, June 14, 2013.
[39] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), March 15, 2013.
[40] Paltoday.ps, May 25, 2013.
[41] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), May 21, 2013.
[42] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), March 15, 2013.
[43] Amad.ps, July 9, 2013.
[44] Paltoday.ps, July 8, 2013.
[45] Paltoday.ps, July 30, 2013.
[46] Wafa.ps, July 30, 2013.
[47] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 19, 2013.
[48] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 1, 2013.
[49] Amad.ps, May 19, 2013.
[51] Ikhwanonline.com, March 16, 2013.
[52] Al-Watan (Egypt), March 15, 2013.
[53] Al-Watan (Egypt), March 11, 2013.
[54] Al-Watan (Egypt), March 11, 2013.
[55] Alaahd.ps, July 17, 2013.
[56] Al-Ahram (Egypt), June 7, 2013.
[57] Al-Ahram (Egypt), June 5, 2013.
[58] Ikhwanonline.com, May 20, 2013.
[59] Al-Shorouq, (Egypt), March 19, 2013.
[60] Al-Misriyyoun (Egypt), March 18, 2013.

N. Shamn is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.

Source: http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/7324.htm

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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