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Is Hamas waging a smear campaign against Egypt? 

By Khaled Abu Toameh
web posted January 29, 2024

According to Palestinian and Egyptian sources, Hamas seems to be behind the latest online campaign that accuses Egypt of preventing humanitarian and medical aid from entering the Gaza Strip.

The sources believe that Hamas activists and supporters are responsible for the campaign, which is mostly taking place on social media and targeting the Egyptian regime, specifically President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, which was outlawed in Egypt after al-Sisi came to power.

The Hamas-led campaign aims to embarrass the Egyptian authorities by depicting them as being in collusion with Israel to toughen the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip and increase the suffering of the Palestinians living there.

The sources also believe that Hamas was behind attempts to organize several rallies in the Egyptian capital of Cairo to demand that Egypt reopen the Rafah border crossing along its shared border with the Gaza Strip and allow more Palestinians to leave for medical treatment.

The criticism on social media centers around Egypt's purported refusal to open the Rafah border crossing and claims that dozens of truckloads of food and medicine were stranded on Egypt's side of the border for no apparent reason.

Additionally, there have been unconfirmed reports of Palestinians forced to pay bribes to Egyptian security officials to allow them to leave the Gaza Strip through the Rafah terminal.

According to the reports, the bribes, ranging from $5,000-$7,000 per person, were being paid to the Egyptians through Palestinian intermediaries, ostensibly Hamas-linked men from the Gaza Strip.

Egyptian government officials have denied claims that Egypt has been hindering the entry of humanitarian and medical aid into the Gaza Strip. Despite the denial, a campaign of incitement against Egypt and its president has continued.

In some videos posted on social media, Palestinian children are seen pleading with apathetic Egyptian soldiers on the other side of the border to help them. The videos, apparently produced by Hamas supporters, are designed to embarrass President Sisi and the Egyptian authorities by depicting them as being responsible for the suffering of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The Video Propaganda

In one video, a Palestinian boy collecting dry leaves for heating takes a shot at the famous Arabic expression "Egypt, Um-El-Dunya," which translates to "Egypt, Mother of the World." This is an expression that Egyptians have long used about the country's ancient civilization and achievements. In the video, the boy looks at the camera and asks: "Have you ever seen a mother who abandons her children?" The underlying message: Egypt has abandoned the Palestinians.

Another video features dozens of trucks stranded on the Egyptian side of the border with the Gaza Strip after being prevented (allegedly by the Egyptian authorities) from entering the coastal enclave. A comment in the video explains: "The aid allocated to Gaza has expired in Rafah, Egypt, and has been disposed of. While people are dying of hunger in Gaza, the Arabs are unable even to bring in expired food! What a shame."

Osama Gaweesh, editor-in-chief of Egyptwatch.net, wrote to his 835,000 followers on X (formerly Twitter): "Just to clarify: Al-Sisi has flooded all the tunnels on the border between Egypt and Gaza since 2014. Al-Sisi has established a complete buffer zone, militarily fortified, between north Sinai and Gaza since 2015. Al-Sisi coordinates security with Israel along the Philadelphi Corridor."

In a third video, a Palestinian man from the Gaza Strip is filmed standing close to an Egyptian watch near the border. "The Egyptian soldier sitting inside the tower is a good man," the Palestinian says. "He can't do anything. Here is the powerful Egyptian army sitting there and watching us die."

Hamas officials (and other Palestinians) have privately and indirectly criticized Egypt and the Arab states for their purported failure to help the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip during the war.

These officials, however, have been careful to watch their words for fear of retribution by Egyptian authorities. Some Hamas leaders have reportedly moved from Lebanon to Egypt after the assassination of top Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut in early January. The Hamas leaders now fear that a public attack on Egyptian authorities would result in their expulsion from Egypt and a toughening of Egyptian security measures and restrictions along the border with the Gaza Strip.

This accounts for the social media campaign unleashed against Sisi and the Egyptian government. Hamas aims to incite Egyptians to take to the streets in "solidarity" with the Gaza Strip, thus increasing the pressure on the Egyptian authorities. Ultimately, the goal is to force the Egyptian authorities to ease their harsh security measures along their border with the Gaza Strip. This move would serve as a lifeline for the beleaguered Hamas leaders. ESR

Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning Israeli Arab journalist, lecturer, and documentary filmmaker specializing in Palestinian affairs. A Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, he has also worked as a senior producer for NBC in the Middle East and has reported on events in the West Bank and Gaza for several media outlets.

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