Cairo, AP—A court ruled on Tuesday to ban activities of the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Egypt in a move likely to fuel tension between Cairo’s military-backed government and the Islamic group that rules the neighboring Gaza Strip.
The Cairo court ordered the closure of Hamas offices and the suspension of all dealings with the group.
Egypt’s relations with Hamas have sharply deteriorated since the military overthrew the Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi, last July. Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities have cracked down on heavily since the ouster, is the mother group of Hamas.
Egypt’s interim leaders maintain that Hamas is playing a key role in the insurgency by militants in the northern region of the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Hamas-ruled Gaza and Israel.
In Gaza, senior Hamas official Izzat Rishq condemned the ruling, saying the movement viewed it as a “political decision” directed against the Palestinian people and their resistance. His comments came in a statement sent by email.
Tuesday’s ruling by the Court of Urgent Matters was the result of a case brought before the court by an Egyptian lawyer seeking a verdict branding Hamas a terrorist organization and suspending any dealings with it. The ruling did not directly declare the group a terrorist organization.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi, addressing a previously scheduled news conference, said he was not aware of the ruling, but added: “Anybody who takes any actions that have implications on our security, are of concern to us.”
Authorities have also destroyed many of the tunnels running under the Egypt–Gaza border and which are used by Palestinians in Gaza to smuggle a wide range of goods from Egypt, including subsidized items like gasoline and medicine.
Hamas is the Palestinian chapter of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood and the two forged close ties during his year in office, with leaders of the Palestinian group spending most of their time in Cairo.
Mursi and scores of Brotherhood leaders are in detention, facing a multitude of trials on a wide range of charges including several that carry the death penalty.
Two of those cases involve Hamas members, accused of assisting Mursi and others in escaping from prison in 2011. Mursi and others are also charged in a separate trial of leaking state secrets to Hamas.
Samir Sabry, the lawyer who filed the case, said the ruling meant that any Hamas member currently in Egypt has now lost any legal cover for his stay and should be arrested.