Relations between Egypt and Hamas reached their lowest point ever as they traded allegations over the weekend about last week’s violent protests along the border between Sinai and the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian supporters of Hamas throw stones at Egyptian border police, not seen, during a rally protesting the delay of an international aid convoy from Egypt, in Rafah southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday.
An Egyptian soldier was killed and scores of Palestinians were wounded, some seriously, when hundreds of Hamas supporters demonstrated against the construction of a steel wall along the border.
They were also protesting against restrictions imposed by the Egyptians on members of the Viva Palestina humanitarian convoy, led by British MP George Galloway, when they sought to enter the Gaza Strip from Sinai.
The Egyptians said that the soldier, who was stationed inside a watchtower, was killed when he was hit by a bullet fired by a sniper from the Hamas-controlled side of the border.
Cairo has demanded a public apology from Hamas over the incident.
The Egyptians were surprised and enraged to instead hear the official Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, announce over the weekend that the soldier was killed by a stray bullet fired by another Egyptian soldier during the protests.
“All the evidence and information available from last Wednesday’s events prove that the soldier was killed by mistake when Egyptian troops opened fire on young Palestinian men who were protesting Egypt’s repressive measures against members of the aid convoy in El-Arish,” Abu Zuhri said. “Not a single bullet was fired from the Palestinian side.”
Abu Zuhri accused the Egyptians of “exaggeration” with the aim of obscuring the fact that 35 Palestinians were wounded in the clashes along the border. Two of the wounded were in critical condition, he said.
The Hamas spokesman also accused the Egyptians of seeking to divert attention from the ongoing work to build an underground steel wall at the border.
A Hamas legislator in the Gaza Strip said that Egypt was now “actively and publicly participating in the war against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” The construction of the new wall and the continued closure of the Rafah border crossing was tantamount to a declaration of war on Hamas, he said.
Issam Abu Shawar, a writer closely associated with Hamas, said that many Arabs and Muslims were disgusted to see Egyptian soldiers throw stones at members of the international aid convoy and Palestinian demonstrators last week.
“What Egypt did was indeed disgraceful,” he said. “They attacked with stones hundreds of messengers of humanity who came from afar to deliver medicine and milk to our people in the Gaza Strip.”
In response, Egyptian government officials, columnists and newspaper editors have launched an unprecedented and scathing attack on Hamas.
Hamas was also strongly condemned by government-employed preachers during Friday prayers in tens of thousands of mosques throughout Egypt.
The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has joined the bandwagon, unleashing sharp criticism against Hamas and accusing it of threatening Egypt’s national security. The PA has also staunchly defended Cairo’s right to build a separation wall along its border with the Gaza Strip.
In an article titled “Egypt and the Gaza Gang,” the chief editor of the Egyptian daily Al-Gomhuria, Muhammad Ibrahim, wrote that Hamas, with the help of the Iranians, was seeking to “extend its control to Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, in addition to Palestine.”
He said that Hamas leaders were living in comfort in Damascus while the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been left homeless and exposed to Israeli missiles.
“For the one-thousandth time we say to the Gaza gang, which claims to be heroic while its members are sleeping in palaces in Damascus and eating whatever they wish while their people are hungry, and who are wearing fur while their people are shivering from cold, that the day of judgment has arrived,” the chief editor, who is very close to President Hosni Mubarak, said.
“Never in history has a gang succeeded in imposing its will on a state,” he wrote.
In another article, Ibrahim said that Hamas was more of a threat to Egypt than Israel.
“Israel is killing our soldiers by mistake,” he said. “But Hamas is killing them with sharpshooters. We won’t forget that Hamas blew up 17 bases along the border since January 2008 and more than 700,000 Palestinians crossed into Sinai. Many of them were gunmen. No Egyptian will from now on allow the agents of Iran to shed the blood of our sons.”
The Egyptians are also furious with Hamas for accusing Cairo of “participating in the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip” by building the steel wall.
Cairo is facing growing criticism in the Arab and Islamic world over the structure. Demonstrations against the project are organized almost on a daily basis in Arab and Islamic capitals.
“Egypt’s main goal behind the construction [of the wall] is to defend its borders from threats emerging from the Gaza Strip,” explained Egyptian political analyst Abdel Munem Saeed. “The new fortresses along our border are defensive, not offensive.”
Saeed said that the decision to establish the wall was taken following attempts by Hamas and Hizbullah to undermine Egypt’s stability and sovereignty.
Source: The Jerusalem Post