Egypt Court Lists Hamas as "Terrorist Organization"

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Published Sunday, March 1, 2015

An Egyptian court on Saturday branded the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas a "terrorist" group over its alleged links with jihadists behind deadly attacks on security forces in the Sinai Peninsula.

Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood which the Egyptian authorities have also declared a terrorist group and have repressed systematically since the army ousted one of its leaders, Mohammed Mursi, from the presidency in 2013.

Hamas condemned what it called "a great disgrace which soils the reputation of Egypt.”

It came almost a month after a court on January 31 designated Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, a "terrorist" group.

Egyptian officials claim weapons are smuggled from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip into Egypt, where they end up with militant groups fighting to topple the Western-backed Cairo government.

Egypt also accuses Hamas, which controls the neighboring Gaza Strip, of supporting Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Last March, Egypt banned all Hamas activities on its soil and froze its assets.

Saturday's court ruling came after two complaints were filed against Hamas implicating it in deadly attacks on the police and army in the Sinai, a judicial source said.

"It was proven that the movement has committed acts of sabotage on Egyptian territory and killed innocent people, civilians and members of the police and army," the ruling said.

The court cited coordinated attacks in the northern Sinai at the end of January in which at least 25 soldiers were killed, saying that "the rockets used in this operation are found only in the Gaza Strip.”

Hamas has repeatedly denied accusations that it has carried out attacks in the North African state, saying it cannot act against Egypt's national security.

Since then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi rose to power in Egypt in 2013 and was elected president, the country’s relationship with the besieged Gaza Strip has worsened.

In November, Egypt decided to create a one kilometer-deep buffer zone in the Sinai Peninsula along the border with Gaza by clearing more than 800 houses, displacing more than 1,100 families, and destroying and neutralizing hundreds of subterranean tunnels.

Gaza, which has been under a brutal illegal Israeli blockade for almost eight years, relied heavily on smuggling tunnels across the Egyptian border to obtain vital supplies. The only border crossing between Egypt and Gaza has also been routinely closed, leaving many Palestinians stranded or without access to important medical treatment.

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has also repeatedly condemned the militant attacks in Egypt and denied any involvement.

However, the Sisi regime has clamped down severely on Mursi supporters. The crackdown has left at least 1,400 people dead and more than 15,000 imprisoned, with hundreds sentenced to death in trials the United Nations described as "unprecedented in recent history."

New anti-terrorism law

The militant organization Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Partisans of Jerusalem), which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, which has seized swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, has claimed most of the attacks.

Saturday's ruling comes just days after Egypt adopted a new anti-terrorism law allowing the authorities to close the premises of any declared "terrorist" organization and freeze its assets and those of its members.

Sami Abu Zuhri, the Hamas spokesman in Gaza City, denounced the ruling as "a desperate attempt to export Egypt's crisis."

It amounted to "a dangerous escalation against the Palestinian people and the forces of Palestinian resistance" against Israel.

But it would have "no impact on Hamas which treats with respect all the sons and leaders of the Arab world, except for some influential persons in Egypt", Abu Zuhri said.

Israel and the United States view Hamas as a "terrorist" organization, and the European Union decided in January to appeal a European court ruling ordering Hamas's removal from the EU's list of terror groups.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)


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