Hamas loses a key ally amid Egypt's unrest

Posted: July 07, 2013

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - The ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has delivered a sharp jolt to Gaza's Hamas rulers, robbing them of their most important ally and raising difficult questions about the future of Islamic political movements in the region.

On Friday, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said he is "monitoring developments" in Gaza's larger neighbor, and is hopeful relations will endure despite the crisis.

"We are not afraid of losing our cause, no fear that our cause will be absent from the Islamic nation's agenda, despite the difficulties and hard circumstances that sometimes the Islamic nation faces," Haniyeh said at Friday prayers.

Earlier in the day, Egypt shut its border crossing with the territory, citing security concerns after suspected Islamic militants attacked four sites in the northern Sinai Peninsula. One soldier was killed, and three were wounded. About 200 Palestinians were turned back to Gaza after the order.

Jittery Hamas officials in Gaza have been otherwise quiet as they tried to adjust to the new reality. But it appeared likely that after making important gains over the last year, their group will see its regional standing weakened, at least in the short term. The rival Palestinian movement Fatah, which lost control of Gaza to Hamas six years ago, welcomed the changes in Egypt.

"I am sure that Hamas is carefully considering every move and every word. This is a strike at the heart of the experience of the Muslim Brotherhood in power," said Atef Ahmad, a Gaza political analyst. "Hamas is now in a difficult situation."

Relations with Egypt are critical to Gaza. Gaza shares a border with Egypt and shares important cultural ties with its larger neighbor, which controlled the seaside strip before it was captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies, so Egypt is the primary gateway for Gazans to leave the territory. Egypt is also a key supplier of goods, much of it shipped through an illicit system of smuggling tunnels along the border.

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