Khaled Mashaal meets Muhamed Mursi in Egypt.
For Hamas, the timing of Sunday night’s terror attack in Sinai could not have been worse. The attack, which resulted in the killing of 16 Egyptian border guards while they were enjoying the fast-breaking meal of Ramadan, took place just when it seemed that Hamas and Egypt were about to embark on a honeymoon.
In fact, the terror attack has been a complete disaster for Hamas, both politically and economically.
Just last week, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy received Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in his palace in Cairo, and agreed with him on a series of measures to ease restrictions imposed on residents of the Gaza Strip.
The two men agreed, among other things, that the Rafah border crossing would be opened daily for 12 hours to allow more Palestinians to leave or enter Gaza.
Haniyeh and Morsy also agreed that Egypt would immediately stop deporting Palestinians who arrive at Cairo International Airport without an entry visa. Instead, the Palestinians would be granted 72-hour visas that would give them time to sort out their travel documents.
Hamas leaders hailed the Haniyeh-Morsy agreement as a “huge achievement” and expressed hope that it would mark the beginning of the end of the blockade on Gaza.
Hamas officials pointed out that the agreement was announced despite opposition from Egypt’s Supreme Military Council and General Intelligence Force.
The military establishment in Egypt has long considered Hamas a threat to the country’s national security and interests, mainly because of the Islamist movement’s close ties with terror groups operating in Sinai.
That’s why many Egyptians have not welcomed Morsy’s rapprochement with Hamas.
In interviews with Arab TV stations and comments on social media sites, many Egyptians blamed their president for the “massacre” in Sinai and demanded the closure of the Rafah border crossing.
Palestinian Authority officials in the West Bank have also expressed discontent with Morsy’s gestures toward Hamas. They are concerned that lifting the blockade would tighten Hamas’s grip on the Gaza Strip and rally more people behind the movement.
Apart from the political damage, the terror attack has also dealt a severe economic blow to Hamas. Immediately after the attack, the Egyptians forced the Hamas government to close down all underground tunnels that are vital to preventing the total collapse of Gaza’s economy. The tunnels are used to smuggle not only weapons, but also various goods and fuel.
Beleaguered Hamas leaders continued Tuesday to insist that their movement was not involved in the Sinai “massacre.”
In a bid to calm Egyptian public opinion, Hamas has even declared a state of mourning over the death of the Egyptian border guards and vowed to do its utmost to help reveal the identity of the perpetrators.
But many Palestinians agreed Tuesday that in light of the growing tensions between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, it would take a long time before Hamas and Morsy would be able to even think about a honeymoon.
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