It should surprise no one that, shortly after the Israel-Gaza ceasefire took effect last week, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh appeared in a television broadcast to express his gratitude to Iran for its help in making Israel “scream with pain”. Given that the addition of more than 100 Iranian Fajr-5 missiles to Hamas’ arsenal extended its reach over 1 million Israelis to well in excess of 4 million, Haniyeh was right to be grateful. But Iran’s was not the only regime from which he acknowledged support. He also thanked Egypt.
Could this be because Egypt, like Iran, had been facilitating, either actively or passively, the provision of military assistance to Hamas? As anyone with a map knows, the only land route to the Gaza Strip – outside Israel – is through Egypt. The fact that Fajr-5 rockets are 20 feet long and weigh over 2,000 pounds would seem to discount the possibility that they might have slipped past Egyptian security forces undetected.
What is more, in the midst of Operation Pillar of Defence, Arab media reported that a convoy of between 5 and 8 coaches carrying 400 to 550 pro-Hamas “activists” were simply waved through the Rafah Crossing by Egyptian border guards. It was later revealed that a delegation of youths from the Muslim Brotherhood had entered Gaza on the same day to “join the Al-Qassam Brigades and their struggle against Israel”. Was this mere coincidence, or were these young jihadists among the other “activists” on board the Egyptian government-approved convoy?
When asked if the Muslim Brotherhood had organised the delegation, senior officials within the movement denied any involvement. Saber Abul Fotouh, who sits on the High Commission of the Brotherhood’s political wing, remarked that Hamas did not need additional fighters because it already has the best in the world. Instead, Fotouh insisted that the Egyptian regime’s “first duty to support [Hamas] is with weapons and money” – an admission, perhaps, that his government had played more than a passive role in the delivery of munitions to the Gaza Strip.
If Egypt has been arming Hamas, or deliberately failing to prevent groups operating within its territory from so doing, then the West needs urgently to reassess its relationship with the regime in Cairo. No friend to Hamas ought to be any friend of ours.