Egyptian Government Issues Stern Warning to Hamas

Foreign Minister warns of a "harsh response" to any attempts by Gaza's Islamist rulers to threaten Egyptian security.

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Ari Soffer,

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi meets U
Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi meets U

Egypt's foreign minister yesterday issued a warning to Hamas,  in yet another sign of hostility towards the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamist movement which rules Gaza.

In an interview with the pan-Arab Al Hayat newspaper Nabil Fahmy said that his government would react harshly "if we feel that elements within Hamas or other parties are trying to attack Egyptian national security." 

He insisted, however that such a response would include "military and security choices and not options that would cause Palestinian citizens to suffer."

His comments were made as he attended the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.

Tensions between Egypt and Hamas seriously deteriorated since the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi. Hamas - an offshoot of the brotherhood - is viewed with suspicion at best and outright hostility at worse by the Brotherhood's opponents, including the current interim government.

Officials have openly accused Hamas of contributing to the unrest in their country, claiming that the group has colluded with local Islamist terrorist cells to carry out attacks on Egyptian security forces, a claim Hamas strongly denies. Despite that denial, Egyptian forces claim to have killed a number of "Hamas fighters" in the restive Sinai Peninsula, and have been cracking down hard on the smuggling tunnel industry between Sinai and the Gaza Strip which fuels much of Hamas' economy.

Also during the interview, Fahmi said that US-Egyptian relations were "troubled," and that he had made it clear to US Secretary of State John Kerry that threats of suspending US aid to Egypt will have no "influence" on the new army-installed authorities.

During his prolonged UNGA address last night, US President Barack Obama said that his administration had "purposely avoided choosing sides" after Morsi was overthrown, but warned that "our support will depend upon Egypt's progress in pursuing a democratic path."

That noncommittal approach to Morsi's ouster - refusing to label it a "coup" and cut off aid to the army on the one hand, but criticizing the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood on the other - has earned the Obama administration enemies on both sides of the conflict there.