Monday, May 13, 2013

13-May-13: Hamas, the thorn in Egypt's side

Well-equipped armed jihadists arrested in Rafah
by Egyptian military on April 10, 2013 [
Image Source]
Post-Mubarak Egypt remains a work in progress. The Islamists of the Moslem Brotherhood hold the presidency and control the government, but Egypt's army remains an active and potent force with a mind of its own. Here's some insight into one aspects of how this is playing out.

In March, an intriguing article in The Tower reported on efforts by Egyptian army officials and Egypt's Minister of Defense to hit back at Hamas, the terrorist group that dominates the Gaza Strip. This was described as retaliation for perceived insults, offences and disrespect - the potent combination that often plays an explosive role in intra-Arab conflicts.

Today it's clear the split is widening, and taking on some interesting dimensions. The Egyptian media have been giving more and more coverage to reports of conspiratorial collaborations between Hamas and its Moslem Brotherhood partners-in-ideology in the government of Egypt - particularly in relation to riots and prison breaks. 

And it seems that media coverage is having an effect. Yesterday's edition of the semi-official Al Ahram news [here] carries a report ("Wild rumours of Hamas interference in Egypt find audience") which advances the idea that 
Public opinion [is] turning against Muslim Brotherhood rule
and connects this to a growing belief that Mohamed Morsi became president as a result of a diabolical deal which gave Hamas what Al Ahram calls "a Sinai foothold". Sinai, as we have reported here over and again [here's a selection of some recent Sinai posts], has been relentlessly sinking into a state of anarchy. It's now a major security headache for Israel... and also for the Egyptian military. On this, readers might care to review what we wrote nearly a year and a half ago: "11-Dec-11: Now this is interesting. Egypt says the report of Hamas activities in Sinai is baseless"

Al Ahram says there is a growing belief in such theories among ordinary Egyptians. The result is a marked erosion in Hamas's popularity inside Egypt. This creates non-trivial problems for the terrorist group, and makes for some fairly astounding sound bites
  • Egypt's army has implemented a series of Hamas-hostile measures that include restrictions on the movement of Hamas figures and the destruction of Hamas smuggling tunnels
  • Al Ahram quotes an anonymous intelligence source who says the Egyptians adopted a policy of "flexibility" on the entry of Palestinians into Egypt at a certain point after Mubarak was overthrown and the Moslem Brotherhood took power. But this quickly changed. "It was a brief moment that was reversed. We are keeping a very close eye on the border. We are not giving Hamas or anyone else an easy time"
  • The same article quotes a political scientist saying "the readiness of so many people to believe in Hamas involvement in the Battle of the Camel, the forced opening of prisons, and the appropriation of parts of Sinai" is a sign of "growing anti-Muslim Brotherhood sentiment in public opinion.
  • Al Ahram quotes at length the details of allegations made against the president: that he was incarcerated in the Wadi Al-Natroun prison and was assisted in an alleged escape from there by Hamas. The take-away: "The ruling president was involved in illicit communication with a foreign body that helped him escape prison [and] the Supreme Presidential Elections Committee accepted his nomination for the presidency without having the necessary legal papers that pardon his illegal breakout from prison... In short, we would be confronted with a corrupt presidential elections process altogether.” In the interests of balance, it also quotes Egypt's Minister of the Interior who says there is no official record to prove that Mohamed Morsi was ever in Wadi Al-Natroun prison.
  • From a different publication within the same stable: "Since the beginning of the Egyptian revolution, Hamas has been perceived as co-responsible for some of the lawlessness that has occurred in Egypt. Many Egyptians believe it has become a burden on Egypt, with the group being transformed from being a “thorn in Israel’s side”, as former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon once described it, into being one in Egypt’s side." [Source: "Accusations against Hamas | Why is Hamas losing its popularity among Egyptians", Al Ahram Weekly, April 24, 2013]
Egypt's Hamas supporters - in this case, Ahmed Sabie who is Cairo correspondent for the Hamas-owned Al-Aqsa satellite television station - have a more nuanced view of all this negativeness. "Time will show", he says in Al Ahram Weekly, "that there are Israeli agents inside the country who are behind this campaign because Israel benefits from it". 


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