For decades, the Egyptian government has served as the de facto mediator for all internal conflicts among Palestinian factions, with former dictator Hosni Mubarak regularly hosting talks between Hamas and Fatah aimed at Palestinian unity.
That policy continued under the post-Mubarak democratic government, but appears to have come to an end today, as a court for Egypt’s new military junta has announced the banning of Hamas outright, ordering their offices closed and all Hamas activities to cease in the country.
Hamas had close ties with the ousted Morsi government, and the junta was spoiling for a fight with them before the coup even took place, lining up its military in the Sinai Peninsula to “crack down” on Hamas.
The Sinai operation went off the rails pretty quickly, as the junta found very little Hamas in the peninsula, but a lot of al-Qaeda-linked Salafist factions that have fought them to a stand-still for months.
The junta has shifted Egypt’s foreign policy markedly, cozying up to Israel and other coup backers while distancing itself from traditional ties. The ban on Hamas is just one more step in that direction, something likely to be praised by Israeli hawks but which will cost Egypt its close ties with the Palestinians.