Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with the Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinian Authority on Sunday, hours after Hamas released an official statement countering statements the ambassador had given in a recent interview.
Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Othman was received by Abbas to provide Egypt with the latest Palestinian political developments, particularly those regarding the ongoing, US-backed peace talks with Israel. Abbas stressed the importance of the Arab and Egyptian support to the Palestinian position, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
Abbas added that Palestinian leadership continue to attach importance to the Egyptian role in reconciliation between the Palestinian rivals, Fatah and Hamas.
Hamas said on Sunday that until this moment, Egyptian authorities have not been able to provide a single piece of evidence pointing to Hamas’s intervention in Egyptian affairs.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zahri released an official statement in response to an interview Othman gave private newspaper Al-Watan. In the interview Othman uses the term “Hamas’s lies” and says that Hamas has used a “black policy” with Egypt after the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July.
Charges were brought against Morsi and other Brotherhood figures on 18 December, accusing Brotherhood leadership of taking part in a “plot” organised by a number of foreign parties including Hamas to incite “violence inside Egypt to create a state of ultimate chaos”.
Egypt-Hamas ties have become increasingly strained after Morsi’s ouster which was followed by Egypt’s repeated opening and shutting down of the Rafah border crossing, vital for the movement of Gazans inside and outside the strip.
The Egyptian army has also intensified a crackdown on the illegal smuggling tunnels which are essential for providing Gazans with many products that would otherwise not make it through the border, including food, medicine, fuel and building materials.
Morsi’s removal was quickly followed by media reports linking Hamas to the surge in militancy in the Sinai Peninsula, claims which were denied by Deputy Head of Hamas’s political bureau Ismail Haniyeh.
Tensions between Fatah and Hamas have also intensified in recent months with the two rivals regularly hurling accusations at one another. On 29 December, Fatah called on Hamas to quit all “forms of intervention” in Arab countries, particularly Egypt. Hamas on the other hand, blames media reports that aim to “distort its image” on Fatah, accusing the latter of running a campaign against Hamas.
Disputes between Hamas and Fatah date back to the former’s victory in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections. Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007 and the strip has been under a land, air and sea blockade since.