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The tension between Hamas and Egypt sharpens after Egyptian newspaper “Al-Ahram Al-Arabi” accuses three top members of Hamas of being involved in attack that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers

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YOUSEF ALHELOU, TRNN CORRESPONDENT, GAZA: The deteriorating situation between Hamas-ruled Gaza and Egypt appears to worsening after the Egyptian Al-Ahram Al-Arabi magazine issued a report on March 14 and renewed accusations against Hamas by naming three top members of Hamas’s military wing of being involved in the killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers last August on a military post in northern Sinai.

Egypt’s attorney general has received a notification from an Egyptian lawyer, Samir Sabri, who wrote in his notification that about 32 “terrorists” were involved in the attack, the majority of whom were affiliated to fundamentalist Salafi and Takfir groups, including three are affiliated to Hamas. And one was identified by his lawyer as Ayman Nofal, a leader within Hamas’s military wing al-Qassam Brigades. The second suspect was Raed al-Attar, who masterminded the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The third was Muhammad Abu Shamala, a top Hamas leader.

Hamas, which had hopes for better ties with Cairo under the leadership of President Mohamed Morsi, has repeatedly denied that any of its members were involved in the attack on Egyptian soldiers in Sinai.

Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas official and deputy minister of foreign affairs, told reporters that the accusations are part of a media incitement campaign intended to sabotage the relationship between Hamas-ruled Gaza and Egypt.

GHAZI HAMAD, HAMAS OFFICIAL (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): We respect the Egyptian sovereignty, and we do not interfere in the Egyptian internal affairs. The media incitement against Hamas and Gaza aims to defame Gaza and Hamas and the resistance. Some people do not like Hamas and want to incite against us. We tell those who accuse us to bring their evidences.

ALHELOU: Cairo had previously indicated that some of the gunmen who killed the 16 Egyptian soldiers near the Gaza border fence in August had crossed into Egypt via tunnels from the Gaza side, while Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said that the attack could be attributed to the Israeli intelligence service and that the operation was an attempt to destabilize the Islamic regime of Morsi.

Following that attack, President Morsi sacked a number of Army generals and instructed security to bring perpetrators to justice as he himself launched Operation Eagle cracking on attackers. But seven months have passed, and still no solid information about who was behind the attack.

For its part, Hamas’ military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades has stated that it will sue the editor-in-chief of the Al-Ahram Al-Arabi magazine for what they said, the false accusation without presenting any proof.

ABU UBAYDA, SPOKESMAN OF HAMAS’ MILITARY WING, AL-QASSAM BRIGADES (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): We will file legal proceedings against the editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram Al-Arabi over his false claims. Those writers should have prioritized siding with the Palestinian people. The Egyptian people know quite well who al-Qassam Brigades and Gaza resistance are. The people supported our resistance against the Israeli occupation and some did not like that.

ALHELOU: Some independent Palestinian political experts say that the current tension is harming the relationship between the two nations and somehow turned the Egyptian public opinion against the Palestinians of Gaza.

AKRAM ATALLAH, POLITICAL ANALYST (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): It’s not in the interest of Hamas to attack or intervene in the internal affairs in Egypt, especially under the leadership of Islamist president Mohamamd Morsi, because Hamas is part of the Muslim brotherhood, which Morsi is affiliated to. It’s true that the relationship has deteriorated on the popular level amongst Egyptians, and Hamas is the victim, and the people of Gaza are paying the price.

HANI BASSOS, ISLAMIC UNIVERSITY OF GAZA: I think the beneficiary from the campaign which was launched by the Egyptian newspapers against Hamas in Gaza is the Israeli side, which has been for the past few years trying to affect and jeopardize the position of Hamas in Gaza. There is another possibility that some Egyptian officials from the old regime have been involved in such activities and such campaign against Hamas, because they want to ruin any contact and any relationship between Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which was elected very recently in Egypt.

ALHELOU: This has done nothing to ease strains between both Hamas and Egypt, particularly after Egyptian authorities closed dozens of underground tunnels under Gaza-Egypt border, which were seen as a major lifeline for Palestinians, who resorted to using the tunnels to overcome the Israeli siege that was imposed in mid 2007 after Hamas took control of the tiny enclave.

Egyptian intelligence officials have frequently worked with Hamas to bridge the gap between the various Palestinian factions, and Hamas officials have generally been welcome in Cairo for meetings related to the intra-Palestinian disagreements.

Some argue that the latest tensions are a clear indication of growing mistrust between both Egypt and Hamas.

Gaza and Egypt share 12 kilometers long border with the Egyptian-controlled Rafah terminal, Gaza’s only land crossing that bypasses Israel.

Seven months have almost passed and the investigations are still ongoing to find who really was behind the August attack. Ordinary Palestinians in Gaza are now hoping that the current tensions will not affect the long-term relationship between the two neighbors.

Yousef Alhelou, reporting for The Real News, Gaza.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Yousef Al-Helou is a Palestinian journalist and correspondent for The Real News Network based in Gaza-Palestine & London. His work has been featured in a variety of media outlets including BBC, GRN, CBC Radio Canada, TV New Zealand, UN Observer, Reuters Institute, Middle East Monitor, Press TV, Al-Etejah TV, Maan News Network, Electronic Intifada, Palestine Chronicle, PNN among many others. Yousef is a Reuters journalist fellow and a UN fellow as well and took part in many speaking tours in the UK/Ireland about his work experience, reporting in a war zone. Yousef covered the infighting between Fatah and Hamas as well as the two Israeli wars on Gaza in late 2008/early 2009 and late 2012, arrival of siege-breaking boats and many other major events since 2006. Yousef runs Gaza TV News page on Facebook that has more than 49,000 followers. Currently he is working on his research about the rise of citizen journalists in Gaza and their impact of public perception of Palestine in the West.