Improving Egypt-Hamas ties unsettle Palestinian politics

Palestinians gather in front of the gate of Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza during a protest in the southern Gaza Strip. (Reuters)
Updated 06 July 2017
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Improving Egypt-Hamas ties unsettle Palestinian politics

GAZA: A series of meetings between Hamas and senior officials in Cairo in recent weeks points to improving ties between Egypt and the Palestinian movement, with implications for Gaza, Palestinian politics and the wider region.
For much of the last decade, Egypt has joined Israel in enforcing a land, sea and air blockade of the Gaza Strip, a move to punish Hamas and its armed wing, which seized the territory in 2007 and has controlled it since.
The situation has worsened in the past month as Israel, at the request of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA), has cut electricity to Gaza, leaving it with barely four hours of power a day.
The sanctions are part of a yearslong effort by the PA, led by the rival Fatah party, to force Hamas to relinquish power in Gaza and join a unified government.
Power cuts have hit hospitals and water treatment plants, squeezing Gaza’s two million people amid a draining heat wave.
Sensing the need to act, and worried about losing popular support, Hamas has sought to mend ties with Egypt, which controls their one border crossing and has, under President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, been highly wary of ties between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, which El-Sisi ousted from power after mass protests.
Hamas’ newly appointed leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, whose background is with the group’s militant wing, met Egyptian officials, including the intelligence chief, last month.
The meetings in Cairo were believed to have been facilitated by Mohammed Dahlan, 55, a former senior Fatah official who is originally from Gaza and is now a staunch opponent of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah’s leader.
Dahlan, who spends much of his time in the UAE and is close to Egypt, has emerged as a powerbroker in the region, determined to bridge differences between Hamas and Cairo and potentially challenge Abbas for leadership.
In that respect, closer ties between Hamas and Cairo are a serious threat to Abbas, regional analysts said.
Not only because they help to bolster Hamas’ credibility in the region, but because they empower Dahlan and undermine the ability of the PA to cast itself as the dominant political body for Palestinians, they said.


Israeli air strike kills Hamas man in Gaza

Updated 19 July 2018
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Israeli air strike kills Hamas man in Gaza

GAZA: An Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip killed a member of the militant Hamas group on Thursday and wounded three others, Hamas sources and medical officials said.
The Israeli military confirmed it had carried out an air strike targeting Hamas militants who were about to launch balloons rigged with flammable material over the border into Israel.
Hamas sources said the casualties were security men working at an observation post near Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.
Fires caused by incendiary helium balloons and kites launched by Palestinians in Gaza have ravaged tracts of farmland in Israel in recent months. Israel has vowed to stop the attacks, even at the risk of wider conflict.
Weekly clashes at the Israel-Gaza border have kept tensions at a high for months. More than 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during protests at the frontier held every week since March.
Israel says Hamas has been orchestrating the demonstrations, dubbed The Great March of Return, to provide cover for militants' cross-border attacks. Hamas denies this.
Cross-border violence surged on Saturday when Palestinian militants fired more than 100 rockets into Israel and the Israeli military carried out dozens of air strikes in the Hamas-ruled enclave.