The activities of the Palestinian militant group Hamas have now been completely banned in Egypt, a court ruled on Tuesday, signaling a further deterioration in relations between the organization that governs Gaza and its neighbor Egypt. The decision follows a previous ruling in the once Muslim Brotherhood-ruled country designating Hamas as a terrorist group
"The court has ordered the banning of Hamas work and activities in Egypt," an unnamed judge told Reuters.
Palestinians hold Hamas flags during the funeral for Ahmed Abdel-Jawad in the Askar refugee camp in the West Bank on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. Abdel-Jawad, a 19-year-old Hamas militant, was killed by the Israeli military in 2002 after storming a Jewish settlement and killing four Israelis. Israel has been returning the remains of dead Palestinian militants in recent days. (AP/Nasser Ishtayeh)
The Egyptian news site Al Ahram reported: “The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters has banned all activities in Egypt by Hamas and ordered the closure of its offices in Cairo pending a court verdict in an espionage case involving ousted president Mohamed Morsi and members of the Islamist Palestinian group.”
Hamas is an ideological offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Morsi was a part of, which has also been outlawed in Egypt.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri characterized the ruling as targeting the Palestinian cause.
"The decision harms the image of Egypt and its role towards the Palestinian cause. It reflects a form of standing against Palestinian resistance,” Abu Zuhri said, according to Al Jazeera.
Senior Hamas official Musa Abu Marzouk, who lives in Cairo, could now be at risk of arrest as a result of the ruling, Reuters reported. Marzouk is also on the U.S. Treasury Department's list of "Specially Designated Nationals" with whom financial transactions are prohibited.
The case originated last year when a group of Egyptian lawyers appealed for Hamas to be banned.
In its ongoing crackdown on terrorists operating in the Sinai Peninsula, Egyptian security forces have sealed more than a thousand tunnels leading from Egypt to Gaza, a lifeline for Hamas used both for smuggling weapons and as a means to collect taxes from those smuggling consumer goods.
Egypt accuses Hamas of cooperating with terrorist groups — some aligned with Al Qaeda — who have killed security forces, Christians and tourists in the Sinai. Hamas denies the allegations.