‘Sisi regime in Egypt paves the way for another Israeli invasion of Gaza’ – Hamas spokesman

Nadezhda Kevorkova
Nadezhda Kevorkova has worked at RT since 2010, before which she was a special correspondent for ‘Novaya gazeta,’ ‘Nezavisimaya gazeta,’ and ‘Gazeta.’ Kevorkova has also worked extensively in Russian mass-media. As a war correspondent, she covered the Arab Spring, military and religious conflicts, and the anti-globalization movement. She has worked as a reporter in Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Hungary, Greece, Turkey, Cuba, and in the republics of the North Caucasus, Tatarstan, and in the Far East. In 2001, after an invitation from US State Department, Kevorkova visited a number of states, including Alaska. As a correspondent of 'Gazeta' she reported from Indian settlements in the US. She covered the ‘Gaza Freedom Flotilla’ in 2008, 2010 and 2011; she also visited Gaza several times during the blockade. In 2010, Kevorkova was nominated for the ‘International Women of Courage’ award.
‘Sisi regime in Egypt paves the way for another Israeli invasion of Gaza’ – Hamas spokesman
Morsi did not take sides in Palestine, but when he was ousted the situation changed completely, Hamas’ representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, said in an exclusive interview with RT’s Nadezhda Kevorkova.

On November 4, an Egyptian court will start the hearing into the case of ousted and arrested President Morsi and 14 leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

One of the main accusations is that Hamas and the Palestinians were behind Morsi and that they set hundreds of Muslim Brothers free – they were imprisoned under Mubarak. So Hamas and Gaza are a threat to Egypt. 

Now thousands of Muslim Brothers have been arrested and their supporters – killed. Not just Gaza, but the whole Sinai Peninsula is under blockade. For the first time in its 1500 year old history, the authorities closed one of the oldest Orthodox monasteries – Saint Catherine’s Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula. There are threats in the Egyptian media and on social web-sites that Hamas in Gaza will be removed, just like Morsi was in Egypt. 

Member of the Hamas politburo, the organization’s representative in Lebanon, its spokesman and negotiator, Osama Hamdan told RT’s Nadezhda Kevorkova why el-Sisi’s regime needs this blockade of Gaza and the unprecedented anti-Palestinian propaganda in the media. 

Mohamed Morsi (AFP Photo)

RT:What is your take on what’s happening in Egypt? 

Osama Hamdan: In our relations with Egypt, we follow the same principles as with other countries. We don’t interfere with their internal affairs. We had relations with the Egyptian government, their security forces and the presidential power for the last 10 years of Mubarak’s rule. When the Egyptians decided to change the regime and started the democratic process, we accepted the people’s decision, respected it and kept our contacts with the government institutions. As before, we continued relations with the security forces, the foreign ministry and the president.

It is well-known that President Morsi supported the Palestinian issue, unlike Mubarak, whose relations with the Palestinians were very tense – he betrayed Palestine. Resistance supported Israel and handed people over to our enemies. Mubarak did that to Abbas, Hamas, blocking Gaza during the Israeli attack in 2008. 

When Morsi became president, he clearly stated that he supported the Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas. He supported Resistance, showed respect to Abbas as the Palestinian president. He respected Resistance, including Hamas. He made his position known by meeting with Khaled Mashal. He showed respect for Palestinian affairs. He didn’t side with either Fatah or Hamas. And we are grateful for that, because we don’t want somebody to side with us against our brothers – we have our differences, but we are still brothers. He helped the Palestinians, but didn’t interfere with our internal affairs and didn’t take sides.

Under Mubarak, the regime sided with Fatah against Hamas, and we were grateful to Morsi for not taking sides in Palestine. The situation changed completely, when President Morsi was ousted. We respect Egypt’s sovereignty, but we want them to have what we are fighting for – not living under dictatorship. We want them to live in a country, where people are not killed for their convictions, in a socially and politically stable state.

‘El-Sisi government stirring up hatred between Egyptians and Palestinians’

RT:One of the main reasons Mubarak suffered the wrath of the Tahrir revolution was his support for the Gaza Strip blockade, but it pales in comparison with the blockade the el-Sisi regime imposed. What is that meant to achieve? 

OH: The new regime launched an unprecedented anti-Palestinian propaganda campaign. It’s not against Fatah or Hamas, mind you, but against all Palestinians. The el-Sisi government is trying to stir up hatred between the Egyptian and Palestinian people. To do that sort of thing when the population clearly supports the Palestinians, one has to use all means available, including spreading lies. 

There are people who are trying to take the Palestinian issue off the agenda. But the Egyptian people support the Palestinians, so what is there left to do? Only stir up hatred.  

Whatever the Israelis choose to do now – take East Jerusalem, destroy the Gaza Strip or the West Bank – these people can say that it’s none of their business, it’s Israel’s business; they can do what they want. 

The scale of the anti-Palestinian propaganda is staggering. 

Palestinian members of security forces loyal to Hamas stand guard on the border between Egypt and southern Gaza Strip July 5, 2013. (Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

We believe that this is Israel’s preparation for a new attack on Palestinians on two levels – the political one, via negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas, and on the ground, via attacking Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Just look at what’s happening now in the West Bank!

Their next step was to destroy the tunnels that were the Palestinian’s lifeline in the conditions of the full-time blockade. They destroyed those tunnels.

Over the last seven years we kept repeating that we didn’t like the idea of these tunnels, but it’s a matter of life and death for the Palestinians living there. If you want them abandoned, open the Rafah checkpoint. It being closed runs contrary to international law, the Arab league resolutions, agreements with Egypt and human rights. 

‘Egypt keeping Rafah checkpoint closed is a strike against all Palestinians’

The Gaza Strip spends about $2 billion on goods in Israel. So why not take advantage of this opportunity? Egypt could let our people trade with our Egyptian friends and ease the pressure Israel is putting on the Palestinians. That would enable the Resistance to withstand Israel’s economic dominance in both Gaza and the West Bank.  

But that is not what’s happening. The tunnels have been destroyed, and the Gaza Strip is still under blockade. Egypt keeps the Rafah checkpoint closed. This is a strike against Palestinians – not just Hamas, which is part of the Palestinian population, but all the Palestinians.

The third thing they did was accuse Hamas of interfering in Egypt’s internal affairs. It’s nonsense, and lies don’t remain undiscovered for long. 

They claim the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood employed personal security made up of Hamas fighters, since they had some unusual names. There were people who looked into it and found out that all of the arrested personal security employees were Egyptians, members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Their names are public knowledge, and none of them were from Hamas.

They claim Hamas sent 7,500 fighters to assist the Revolution that began on January 25, 2011. That’s ridiculous. At the time only 300 Palestinians a day were allowed to cross the border. Women constitute about half of them and children make up a fourth. If we take into consideration elderly citizens and those headed to hospitals and clinics for medical purposes, that means that 30 men at best were able to enter Egypt legally. There’s no way a Palestinian could be on Egyptian territory illegally.    

So sending 7,500 fighters would have taken Hamas 250 days. The checkpoint is closed on Fridays, Saturdays and holidays, so in reality it would have taken a year. The Revolution went on for 18 days, and they claim that in the course of 18 days we sent as many people to Cairo as would have only be possible to send in a year. 

An Egyptian soldier stands guard at a checkpoint in Rafah city on the Egyptian border (Reuters)

Egypt’s population is 90 million people, with 2.5 million people in the army or the police forces. Gaza’s population is just 1.5 million people. Do they believe 1.5 million of Palestinians, including women and children, pose a serious threat to a population of 90 million people protected by 2.5 million armed and trained men?

What happened in Egypt in January 2011 was the expression of the Egyptian people’s will. It was an internal process, a demand for democracy. What was done to President Morsi is against democracy and the people’s will. No one has the right to justify this blow against democracy using Hamas or the Palestinian people. The only people who could do such a thing are those seeking to take the power away from the people. 

RT:What’s the current situation in Egypt?

OH: Everyone knows it’s very unstable and the people are suffering. But with the situation being as it is now, we rule out the possibility of interfering, because the Egyptian people are the ones that have to choose their own path. 

However, it doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to assess the events either positively or negatively.

RT:President Morsi is now being accused of planning to give Gaza part of the Sinai Peninsula and establish the Palestinian state there. Did such a project exist?

OH: This is a really stupid idea. We don’t want any other territories besides Palestine. We will say no to any other spot on the map, because we want Palestine. The Sinai Peninsula belongs to Egypt. There is no room for discussion here.

Nobody has ever told us about this “project” – neither President Morsi, nor any of his associates. This is just a stupid joke. The only thing we ever heard from President Morsi and the Egyptians was that Egypt supported the Palestinian people and their right to live in their land, and have the same freedoms as everybody else in world.

RT:There is a website that posted a threat to overthrow the government in Gaza on November 11. The media and social websites are full of messages saying that Egyptian security forces along with Dahlan’s units are getting ready to overthrow the Ismail Haniyeh government in Gaza, just like they did with Morsi, and destroy Gaza.

OH: We need to understand what is happening in the media that are leading people to believe that this is true. I think that the Palestinians deserve an explanation from Egypt, assurances that they are not planning to do anything against Palestine. We can keep saying – this won’t happen. But people tell the Egyptian authorities – we are not afraid of you, but you have to say that you won’t do anything like that, because people are concerned. They saw what happened in Egypt and what is happening in the media.

A general view shows the destruction after an Israeli air strike on a building in the northern Gaza Strip refugee camp of Jabalia on March 12, 2012. (AFP Photo)

RT:But people do think it is possible that Gaza will be destroyed – after what happened in Egypt, how it happened, and with no help from the international community.

OH: It’s impossible. The Palestinians know that Palestine and Egypt have always had good relations. But it is impossible that the Egyptians will ask the Palestinians to move somewhere and leave Gaza.

I want to remind you that in 2008, during Israel’s attack on Gaza, hundreds of Palestinians were outside Gaza. When they learned about the attack, they rushed to Gaza and asked Egypt to open the border for passage.

It came as a shock to everyone. In times of war people try to escape to safe places. It happened in 1948, and that’s when the Palestinians learned their lesson, realizing that they couldn’t go back.

Whenever there is danger, Palestinians stay in Gaza and rush to their homes while they are being bombed. This may sound strange, but it’s true. 

How can these people, who rush to their homes while they are being bombed, leave this land, when somebody is making plans against it? How can anybody really think that? I have no doubts that these rumors are part of the propaganda aimed at shaking people up. Many Palestinians ask this question – what is this? We think that this is being done in order to cover up mass killings on the West Bank during the talks with Abbas and prepare Israel’s next attack on Gaza.

RT:Will Erdogan go to Gaza or is that no longer on the books?

OH: Egypt informed him that he wouldn’t be able to visit Gaza. So now it depends on the two governments. And this is not just about Erdogan, but any other leader as well. Everybody who wants to visit Gaza and express their protest – welcome, Gaza is open for you.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.