An Egyptian court has formally ruled that Gaza’s ruling Hamas organization is a terrorist group, the country’s state-run media reports.
The decision officially outlaws Hamas in much the same way that the Muslim Brotherhood has been banned in Egypt. Hamas was founded by the Brotherhood, as have been many other terrorist organizations as well.
Both the United States and the European Union banned Hamas as a terrorist organization years ago.
Hamas denounced the decision at a news briefing. “It is a shocking and dangerous decision that targets the Palestinian people,” spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told journalists. “It will directly contaminate the reputation of Egypt.”
The same court outlawed as a terrorist group the military wing of Hamas – the Izz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades – last month.
The current ruling came one week after the passage of the country’s Terrorist Entities Law which specifies the designation of a terror group, CNN reported. According to the new law, the prosecutor general must propose the declaration of a group as a terror organization. The decision must be approved by an appeals court as well, according to Ahmed Ragheb, head of the National Group for Human Rights and Law.
In addition, authorities may also freeze the assets of designated terror groups, and issue travel bans as well.
Egypt’s relations with Turkey — another regional neighbor — have been rocky since former Muslim Brotherhood-backed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was deposed in 2013. Turkey’s AKP-led government, headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is a strong supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Erdogan in particular has long been a close friend of Hamas. Recently Hamas was welcomed to open a new “foreign office” headquarters in the Turkish capital after Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal and his minions were expelled from Qatar.
Since Egypt’s participation in negotiations between Hamas in Gaza and Israel was essential in security a cease-fire during the last war, it remains to be seen how the current situation will affect future relations in the region.