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Gazans demonstrate against ‘terrorism’ in Egypt

Aug. 6, 2017 8:27 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 6, 2017 10:27 P.M.)
GAZA (Ma’an) -- Thousands of Palestinians participated in a demonstration on Saturday evening in the besieged Gaza Strip to denounce “terrorism” in Egypt.

Participants gathered in al-Saraya Square in Gaza City, waving Palestinian and Egyptian flags and chanting slogans expressing love for the Egyptian people and for Palestinian unity.

The general commissioner of the Higher Committee for Tribal Affairs in Gaza, Akef al-Masri, said that Palestinians and Egyptians were one people and that Palestinians stood in support of Egypt “in its confrontation with terrorism and conspiracies.”

A Hamas leader echoed similar sentiments.

“Egypt is our security and the safety of Egypt is our own safety,” Ismail Radwan said. “We are happy with the strong brotherly relations with Egypt, and we remain very committed to developing these relations.”

“Gaza will never forget the sacrifices of the Egyptian army in Palestinian lands,” Radwan said, presumably referring to the participation of Egyptian forces in conflicts against Israel from 1948 to the 1970s.

Hamas has increased efforts to improve ties with Cairo, which has long accused Gaza’s de facto ruling party of aiding an insurgency in the northern Sinai Peninsula, which has been met with a harsh ‘counterterrorism’ crackdown by Egyptian authorities.

In June, the Hamas-run government announced the establishment of a 100-meter-wide “buffer zone” along the border between Gaza and Egypt in order to “increase control and enhance security.”

While Hamas has consistently denied allegations of involvement in the Sinai insurgency, the Palestinian political faction currently has a vested interest in increasing security cooperation with Egypt, amid a diplomatic siege by Egypt and other Arab countries on Hamas’ long-time supporter Qatar, where the former head of Hamas’ politburo was based.

In the initial days of the diplomatic crisis, Qatar’s relationship with the Hamas “terror group” was cited as a main justification for the siege, but in the end, severing ties with Hamas did not make it on Saudi Arabia’ list of demands to Doha.

Now that Hamas’ leadership is concentrated in Gaza, the political party is dependent on Egypt’s goodwill, as the only country sharing a border with Gaza besides Israel, to maintain its leaders’ freedom of movement through their shared border.

Egypt has upheld the Israeli blockade since President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood-led government in 2013.

Meanwhile, Hamas’ strengthened relationship with Egypt comes amid a growing alliance with discharged Fatah leader Muhammad Dahlan -- with whom Hamas has confirmed an alliance to challenge the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) -- as a leaked report alleging that Dahlan was slated to be appointed as head of Gaza’s de facto government.

Hamas’ shifting allegiances come as Palestinians trapped in Gaza are coping with just a few hours of electricity a day after Israel drastically reduced electricity supplies to the enclave, and rights groups have insisted Israel bears the brunt of responsibility for the crisis despite the ongoing Fatah-Hamas feud.
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