Egypt crisis brings Fatah, Hamas tensions to new high

Aggravated tensions between Palestinian groups has dashed hopes that reconciliation agreement can be completed.

fatah gunment 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
fatah gunment 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The crisis in Egypt has aggravated tensions between Fatah and Hamas, dashing hopes of reconciliation between the rival Palestinian parties.
While Fatah supports the military coup that toppled the Muslim Brotherhood regime, Hamas has come out in favor of deposed president Mohamed Morsi.
During Friday’s prayers at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, hundreds of Muslims staged a demonstration in support of Morsi.
Hoisting Hamas flags, they chanted slogans against Egyptian Defense Minister Abdul Fatah al-Sisi and the US. They also posted a large portrait of Morsi at the entrance to the Aksa Mosque. The demonstration drew sharp criticism from Fatah and Palestinian Authority leaders.
Shortly after the demonstration, PA President Mahmoud Abbas phoned Sisi and Egyptian interim President Adly Mansour and told them he was opposed to any attempt to meddle in Egypt’s internal affairs.
In Kafr Kana, near Nazareth, on Saturday, more than 2,000 supporters of the Islamic Movement demonstrated against the overthrow of Morsi.
The head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Saleh, told the demonstrators that those who acted against Morsi were also operating against Jerusalem, the Aksa Mosque and Palestine.
Abbas, who was one of the first Arab leaders to congratulate the Egyptians on the coup, is worried that the demonstration on the Temple Mount would cause further damage to relations between Egypt and the Palestinians, a PA official in Ramallah said.
“Hamas’s meddling in Egypt’s internal affairs has already caused extensive damage to our relations with the Egyptians,” the official said.
“We respect the choice of the Egyptian people, who decided to remove their president for their own reasons.”
Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf accused supporters of Hamas and the Islamic Movement in Israel of being behind Friday’s pro-Morsi, anti-US demonstration. He also criticized Israeli authorities for failing to prevent it, saying it took place “under the watchful eye” of the Israeli authorities.
“How were the Hamas supporters able to bring all the big placards and flags into the compound of the Aksa Mosque at a time when all the worshipers were being subjected to thorough searches by the occupation soldiers?” Assaf asked.
“Chanting slogans against the Egyptian people and army harms the interests of our people and their cause,” he argued. “The protest does not represent Jerusalem and its residents.”
The Fatah spokesman insisted that only a “few dozen” Hamas supporters had taken part in the protest, but warned that the Islamic group’s continued intervention in Egypt’s internal affairs could see the Palestinians “enter a dark tunnel.”
He accused Hamas and the Islamic Movement in Israel of exploiting Jerusalem and the Aksa Mosque for “factional interests.”
Jamal Nazzal, a senior Fatah representative, also condemned the pro-Morsi demonstration, dubbing it a “provocation” and claiming that those behind it were followers of Abu Jahl (died 624 CE), one of the polytheist pagan Qurayshi figures known for his hostility toward the Prophet Muhammad and Islam.
“These are irresponsible and provocative actions that demonstrate a lack of sensitivity toward the holiness of the site,” Nazzal remarked.
“What about the feelings of the worshipers who don’t support this act? The people of Abu Jahl want to torch the earth on their way to the abyss.”
PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Adnan Husseini said that the tens of thousands of Muslims who attended Friday prayers on the Temple Mount voiced opposition to the presence of the pro-Morsi posters.
“The worshipers came with one message,” Husseini said.
“Our people are resisting the occupation and nothing else, Jerusalem is an Arab city and our people are here and will stay on this land forever.”
Another PA official, Minister for Wakf Affairs Mahmoud Habbash, condemned Hamas for using the Temple Mount as a platform to criticize the Egyptian army.
“What we witnessed at the Aksa Mosque compound on Friday is an attempt by Hamas-affiliated elements to involve the Palestinians in the internal affairs of Egypt,” Habbash said. “This is a miserable and unacceptable attempt that contradicts the position of the Palestinian leadership.”
Habbash called on Hamas to “reassess” its policies, adding that the majority of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip did not support the movement.
Hamas, meanwhile, accused the PA and Fatah of exploiting the crisis in Egypt to incite Egyptians and other Arabs against the Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip.
The group said it had obtained evidence that top Fatah and PA officials had been feeding the Egyptian media “lies and fabrications,” with the aim of driving a wedge between the movement and Egypt.
“Fatah’s incitement against Hamas in the Egyptian media is shameful and undignified,” said Ibrahim al-Madhoun, a Hamas-affiliated political analyst. “This incitement will have a negative impact not only on Hamas, but also on the entire Palestinian people.”
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said over the weekend that “involving Hamas in the Egyptian crisis serves only the Israeli occupation and causes damage to the Palestinians.”
Haniyeh added that the claims that his movement had been meddling in the internal affairs of Egypt were “baseless and fabricated.”Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.