An Egyptian court has banned all activities of Hamas in Egypt, a judge said, in another sign that security forces plan to squeeze the Palestinian group that runs the neighboring Gaza Strip.
Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has been declared a ‘terrorist group’ by Egypt’s army-backed government and has faced a security crackdown since the military ousted one of its leaders, Mohamed Morsi, from the presidency last July.
“The court has ordered the banning of Hamas work and activities in Egypt,” the judge, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters news agency.
Egyptian authorities see Hamas a major security threat, accusing the group of supporting al-Qaeda-inspired fighters in the Sinai peninsula, allegations it denies.
The court also ordered the closure of Hamas offices in Egypt, one of the judges overseeing the case told Reuters.
Hamas condemned the ruling, saying it targeted the Palestinian cause.
“The decision harms the image of Egypt and its role towards the Palestinian cause. It reflects a form of standing against Palestinian resistance,” Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the Gaza-based organization, said.
The case was filed by a group of Egyptian lawyers last year asking for Hamas to be banned and be designated as a terrorist organization.
When Morsi was in power, Hamas held its secretive internal elections in Egypt in 2012. A top Hamas official, Musa Abu Marzouk, lives in Cairo and may be at risk of arrest by the new court decision.
After crushing the Muslim Brotherhood at home, Egypt’s military rulers plan to undermine Hamas, senior Egyptian security officials told Reuters in January.
The aim, which the officials say could take years to pull off, includes working with Hamas’s political rivals Fatah and supporting popular anti-Hamas activities in Gaza, security and diplomatic officials said.
Since it seized power in Egypt last summer, Egypt’s military has squeezed Gaza’s economy by destroying most of the 1,200 tunnels used to smuggle food, cars and weapons to the coastal enclave, which is under an Israeli blockade.
Egypt also deported an American anti-war activist on Tuesday who was trying to travel to the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has given the clearest indication yet that he will run for president, saying he cannot ignore the demands of the “majority”.
Sisi, who toppled Egypt’s first freely elected president in July, said “official procedures” concerning his candidacy were expected in the coming days, the state news agency reported.
(Al Jazeera and agencies – www.aljazeera.net)