Hamas ready for security cooperation with Egypt

In response to the latest Egyptian accusations against Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement has called for security cooperation to end the rift.

al-monitor An Egyptian soldier sits atop a bulldozer on the border between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip, Sept. 12, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa.

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sinai peninsula, security, salafist jihadists, palestine, muslim brotherhood, islamic jihad, hamas, egyptian-palestinian relations

Jan 8, 2014

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Hamas foreign relations official Bassem Naim said that the movement is ready for security cooperation with Egypt, especially after the Egyptian Interior Ministry accused Hamas of being involved in bombing the Security Directorate in Mansoura in the Dakahlia Governorate on Dec. 24. The blast killed 16, including 14 policemen.

“Let a Hamas delegation meet the Egyptian security apparatus and let’s put on the table all the files and evidence. We are ready to hold accountable anyone found to be involved, and we shall take full responsibility,” Naim said during a phone conversation with Al-Monitor, adding that this comes in the context of maintaining common security in Palestine and Egypt.

That call came after a rise in the frequency of Egyptian accusations toward Hamas, as reported on Jan. 7 by Al-Monitor’s Adnan Abu Amer. Egypt has formally accused Hamas of being involved in the Mansoura bombing.

Naim told Al-Monitor that so far Egypt has provided no evidence of Hamas’ involvement in meddling in Egypt’s security, except for what everyone hears in the media. He added, “There is no evidence. The Hamas members whom the media claimed were involved are either martyrs, detainees or have never left [Gaza]. Among them is Hassan Salameh, who is sentenced to several life sentences in Israeli jails.”

On Jan. 2, Egyptian Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim accused the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas of being behind the violence that Egypt has witnessed recently.

In a press conference in Cairo to Arab and local media, he said, “The preliminary investigations revealed the involvement of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood organization in the incidents of violence that the country has witnessed recently,” accusing Hamas of complicity in the latest incident.

“Those who perpetrated the bombing around the Security Directorate in Dakahlia had opened channels of communication with the leaders of the Hamas movement,” Ibrahim said.

Earlier, the Egyptian army accused Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip and Sunni groups belonging to the Salafist jihadist movement of being involved in the events in the Sinai Peninsula.

The accusations reached their peak in mid-September, after an Egyptian military spokesman confirmed that ammunition had been seized with the name of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades written on it.

Hamas responded to Egypt’s interior minister by issuing a statement the same day saying that Hamas rejects the interior minister’s accusations. The latter had accused Hamas of having relations with the parties that conducted the bombings that happened at some Egyptian sites.

The statement, which was published on the Facebook page of Izzat al-Rashq, a Hamas political bureau member, said, "The policy of Hamas is fixed and is based on noninterference in the internal affairs of other countries and that Egypt’s security is appreciated and respected and cannot in any way be harmed.”

In its statement, Hamas said that such accusations are rejected and are reminiscent of accusations by former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli, who accused the Palestinians of being behind the 2011 bombing of the Saints Church in Alexandria, an accusation that the Egyptian judiciary has proved to be baseless.

In the statement, Hamas called for an “end to the continuous smear and agitation campaign against the resistance and the Palestinian people because [that campaign] only benefits the Zionist enemy.”

The Egyptian interior minister had said that Hamas gave the accused logistical support. “They [Hamas] helped them devise two anti-aircraft jamming devices, how to direct Qassam rockets, develop decoders, develop a system for monitoring aircraft using computers, prepare several Khaffash al-Taer planes and obtain a large amount of nitric acid,” he said, speaking during the press conference.

In response to these accusations, Naim said Hamas was ready to discuss these charges. “We are ready to talk if Hamas is proven to be involved. Let's sit at a dialogue table, especially since Hamas’ second man Moussa Abu Marzouk resides in Egypt and can discuss all these files. So if there's a real intention to resolve this crisis, let a Hamas delegation meet with officials there [in Egypt] and let’s stop talking through the media,” he said, explaining that there had been previous demands for such a dialogue but it didn’t materialize except for a few contacts to clarify some matters.

Naim added that Egypt’s accusations are flimsy and that one doesn’t need to be a security or political expert to realize that the accusations are false. “I'm very sorry that these statements have come this time from security sources and not from media outlets as in the past, despite Hamas’ repeated assertions that it did not interfere in the internal affairs of any state,” he added.

Four reasons

For his part, Hamas official Ahmed Youssef said that there are four reasons why the accusations leveled against Hamas have increased. The most important of those reasons is to link the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt with terrorism, especially after the openness and democracy experienced by Egypt in the era of the Muslim Brotherhood and which made ​​many Western countries reject the military coup. “Thus, linking [the Brotherhood] to Hamas — which is on the global terrorism list — is the best option for that,” he said, speaking to Al-Monitor.

He stated that the second reason for these accusations is to point the finger toward an external enemy and that can be done by demonizing Hamas, especially as it is difficult for Egypt to face Israel and portray it as an enemy.

The third reason, according to Youssef, who spoke with Al-Monitor by phone, is to “redeploy the Egyptian army in the Sinai and change the terms of the Camp David Accords. If that’s the reason, then it reveals a certain cleverness in security matters, and thus we agree to withstand the harm for that sake.”

He said that the fourth reason is to earn Israel’s approval because Israel would then mobilize its “lobbies” in the United States and ask them to legitimize the coup in Egypt.

About the possibility that the Egyptian army may strike the Gaza Strip, Youssef said, “This is nonsense. Egypt will not [make that mistake]. Striking [Gaza] will harm the reputation of [the Egyptian authorities] in the Muslim and Arab world and will become a wound that will never heal.”

As of the date of this writing, Hamas issued a statement on Jan. 5 calling on the Egyptian ambassador in Ramallah, Yasser Othman, to stop what it described as “incitement against the movement.”

In an interview with the Egyptian Al-Watan newspaper on Jan. 5, Othman said that after the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas has been pursuing a policy of incitement against Egypt on the political, media, advocacy and security levels.

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