An Egyptian court has banned all activities of Hamas in Egypt, a judge said, in another sign that security forces plan to squeeze the Palestinian militant group that runs the neighbouring Gaza Strip.
Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has been declared a terrorist group by Egypt’s army-backed government and has faced a security crackdown since the military ousted one of its leaders, Mohamed Morsi, from the Egyptian presidency last July.
“The court has ordered the banning of Hamas work and activities in Egypt,” the judge, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters.
The court also ordered the closure of Hamas offices in Egypt, one of the judges overseeing the case said.
Egyptian officials have previously accused Hamas of plotting with Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to carry out “terror attacks” in the country. They say Hamas supports al Qaeda-inspired Islamist insurgents in the Sinai Peninsula.
However, the judge stopped short of declaring Hamas a terrorist group, saying the court did not have the jurisdiction to do so.
Senior Hamas official Bassem Naim said that the court’s decision was “an attempt to besiege the resistance, and serves the Israeli occupation.”
Hamas has denied that it is involved in attacks in the Sinai Peninsula.
Morsi, who was freely elected, is now on trial in several cases on charges including inciting the murder of protesters during his presidency and collaborating with Hamas to stage terrorist attacks in Egypt. He denies the charges and accuses the army of staging a coup that undermined democracy.
Islamist militants based in Egypt’s Sinai region, which has a border with Gaza, have stepped up attacks on police and soldiers since Morsi’s political demise. Hundreds have been killed by an insurgency that has spread to other parts of Egypt, the largest and most populous Arab country.