Hamas officials on Tuesday urged Palestinians to ignore rumors to the effect that the Egyptian army is preparing a military offensive against the Gaza Strip.
“The talk about a possible Egyptian military operation in the Gaza Strip is baseless,” a Hamas official said. “We urge our people not to pay attention to the rumors flying around.”
A Palestinian journalist in Gaza City said that there was “increased talk” about a possible Egyptian military strike in the Gaza Strip.
“Wherever you go, you hear people here talking not only about an Egyptian military plan, but also Israeli preparations to invade the Gaza Strip,” he said. “Some people believe that the Egyptians and Israelis may even launch a joint military offensive to topple the Hamas government.”
Another Hamas official said that the rumors were triggered by growing tensions between his movement and the new rulers of Egypt.
He pointed out that recent security measures by the Egyptian authorities, such as helicopter flights over the Gaza Strip, the demolition of most of the smuggling tunnels and the shooting at Palestinian fishermen near the border have only reinforced the fear of a military strike.
“Gaza has always been known as a burial site for anyone who dares to invade or attack it,” the Hamas official said.
He added that Hamas does not rule out the possibility that the Palestinian Authority and “other hostile parties” were behind the rumors concerning an impending military strike against the Gaza Strip.
In a sign of escalating tensions between the two sides, Hamas gunmen last week held a paramilitary march near the border with Egypt, during which they held placards in support of deposed president Mohamed Morsi.
Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzouk has since apologized to the Egyptian authorities over the provocative show of force by the armed wing of Hamas, Izzadin Kassam.
Hamas’s news agency, Al- Ray, published an article entitled “Will the Egyptian army attack the Gaza Strip?” reviewing Egypt’s recent security measures along the border with the Gaza Strip.
The article quoted Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri as saying that he found it “awkward” that the Gaza Strip was being besieged by Arabs.
He said that the goal of creating a buffer zone between Egypt and the Gaza Strip was to keep Palestinians and Egyptians away from each other and prevent food, medicine and fuel from reaching Palestinians.
Mustafa Sawwaf, another Hamas-affiliated analyst, ruled out the possibility that the Egyptians or Israelis would launch a military strike against the Gaza Strip.
“I don’t believe there will be a military offensive against the Gaza Strip,” he said. “But if such an aggression does take place, the Palestinian resistance will respond with full force and firmness.”
Analyst Adnan Abu Amer also ruled out the possibility of a military strike, noting that the Egyptian security measures were mainly aimed at stopping the flow of weapons to the Gaza Strip and Sinai.
He said that although the security measures would have a political, economic and military effect on the Gaza Strip, the situation would not deteriorate to an armed confrontation [between Hamas and Egypt].”
Islam Shahwan, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry, said he believed that Fatah and the new rulers of Egypt were conspiring to harm the Gaza Strip.
“I believe Fatah is plotting, together with some of the coup leaders in Egypt, to harm the Gaza Strip by tightening the blockade and starving its people in order to create chaos,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “They are hoping that the people in the Gaza Strip would revolt against Hamas the same way the Egyptians erupted against Morsi.”
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!