Cairo Lays Hamas-Ruled Gaza to Siege

Egypt has taken the drastic step of sealing its border with Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip after an emergency consultation in Cairo this week led by President Hosni Mubarak concluded that the fall of Gaza fall poses a strategic threat to the Land of the Nile.

Reinforcements were rushed to Egypt’s Sinai border with Gaza and intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman named coordinator of operations against the Islamist group which seized power from the Palestinian Authority and Fatah in a five-day blitz last week.

In the last three days, not a single Palestinian has been admitted from Gaza; Palestinians visiting Egypt have been asked to leave at once.

Gen. Suleiman’s next action was to warn the leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammed Mahdi Aqef, not to try and take advantage of its Palestinian offspring’s success in Gaza. He warned the group that if they did not tone down their jubilation, celebrants would be silenced with an iron fist.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Middle East sources reports that directives in the same vein were passed from King Abdullah‘s court in Amman to Jordan’s Muslim Brethren.

Mubarak has summoned a meeting of Jordan’s monarch, Israel’s Ehud Olmert and the Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas for next Monday in Sharm al-Sheikh, in the hope of coming up with a strategy for stopping the Hamas menace spreading to the West Bank and Sinai.

The Egyptian president and his advisers have concluded that the defeat of Abbas’ Fatah and Hamas’ seizure of the Gaza Strip pose a threat to the stability of his regime in four ways:

1. Hamas, created as a Palestinian offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, is the first part of the movement to win an independent territorial domain by force of arms. Its success may well inspire millions of Brethren in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East to follow suit.

2. Hamas rule in Gaza, which shares a border with Egyptian Sinai, where al Qaeda has planted cells among the disaffected Bedouin, weakens Cairo’s control of the peninsula all the way to the eastern bank of the Suez Canal and the Western coast of the Gulf of Aqaba.

3. Tehran, by providing the Hamas coup with ideological, military and financial support, has created at Egypt’s back door an Iranian political and military base of influence. The Islamic Republic and its revolution have won direct access to urban and rural Egypt.

4. The Qatari ruler Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani has adamantly rejected any Arab League action against Hamas. His tolerance allows Iran to use Qatari bank branches across the Middle East, including Egypt, to continue to funnel funds for bankrolling the Hamas regime’s operations.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Gulf sources account for the Qatari emir’s enthusiasm for Hamas by the presence in the emirate of the enormously influential and popular radical Sunni television preacher Yusouf Qardawi, who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Shura council and the uncrowned leader of its Palestinian subsidiary, Hamas.

The preacher’s popular program on the Arabic television station al Jazeera elevates the standing of Emir al Thani, the station’s owner, in the Muslim world and opens up for him profitable political, business and intelligence channels with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Qatari ruler has no intention of prejudicing these interests. Therefore, when Cairo quietly asked him to withdraw satellite services from the Hamas television station in Gaza, he responded with a curt negative.

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