An Egyptian general has said that President Muhammad Morsi, who was overthrown by the army on Wednesday, may be charged by the military with “collaborating” with the Palestinian resistance group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, urgent action is needed to avoid a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, a human rights group warned today, as the political crisis in neighboring Egypt deepens.
Closing Rafah, blaming Palestinians for Egypt’s problems
Earlier today, Egyptian authorities shut down the Rafah crossing, the only route to the outside world for the vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza. The closure came after reported attacks on several Egyptian army checkpoints and posts in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.
Egyptian authorities and media have routinely blamed such attacks on Palestinians or on Hamas, without any evidence, and Egypt has habitually imposed collective punishments by closing Rafah.
General says Morsi “collaborated” with Hamas
In a striking example today, Brigadier General (Ret.) Ayman Salama, who teaches at Cairo’s Military Academy, told the BBC World Service Newshour that part of the reason the army had overthrown Morsi was his alleged collaboration with Hamas against Egypt.
Salama asserted there was a Palestinian role an attack that killed 16 Egyptian border guards in Sinai last August, and claimed that Morsi had helped to cover it up. Salama said army brass viewed Morsi’s main shortcomings as being related to:
national security in Sinai and with the tunnels coming from the jihadists extremists and Hamas elements, personnel, from Gaza Strip into Sinai leading to the killing in just five minutes of 16 of the guard’s troops. And the president refused the army to release the names after the investigation … Probably there will be military charges against the deposed president being the supreme commander of the Egyptian army forces.
The BBC host asked Salama: “You’re saying that the main offense from the army’s point of view was that President Morsi was too helpful to Hamas?”
Salama responded: “criminally speaking, he [Morsi] threatened the national and military highest security interests of the army and the whole nation by actually collaborating to Hamas against the interests of the army … especially in Sinai.”
Salama added that the “military asked the president many times to give them orders, directives to block, to shut off all tunnels, all tunnels with Gaza but the president claimed that there have been many humanitarian actually sympathies with our neighbors in Hamas in Gaza to let them have a breath against the Israeli blockade.”
Salama reaffirmed the “mutual and important cooperation in intelligence and security between the Egyptian army and the Israeli defense army.”
Possible “catastrophe” as Egypt cracks down
Geneva-based human rights organization Euro-Mid said in a statement today that it “is alarmed by the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Gaza which is expected to exacerbate in the light of the ongoing political crisis in Egypt, unless the international community intervene sooner to provide Gaza with the needed relief, and avoid further repercussions on 1.7 million people.”
Euro-Mid added that:
the recent Egyptian security restrictions in the border areas led to shut tunnels that are described as the only main lifeline to provide Gaza with fuel supplies, commodities, and goods that alleviate impacts of the Israeli siege which was imposed on the strip seven years ago. Eyewitnesses told the Euro-Mid that Egyptian Army bulldozers destroyed number of tunnels that are used to transport goods.
The human rights organization noted that the ongoing gas shortage reached an alarming level, warned of a real catastrophic situation within hours in public hospitals and health centers, which currently lead to reduction in some ambulance services, except in emergencies.
The tightening siege on the Egyptian border comes amid new restrictions by Israel that have led to severe shortages of gas for cooking and heating, affecting businesses, agricultural production and health services.
Israel’s tight restrictions on people and goods continue to devastate the economy.
Egypt gas crisis disappears mysteriously
In the days before the 30 June protests and the subsequent military coup, long lines formed at gasoline stations in Cairo amid an apparent fuel shortage. But the crisis disappeared rapidly once the coup had taken place, as journalist Evan Hill in Cairo wryly observed:
The rapid disappearance of the fuel crisis within Egypt has led to speculation on social media that it may have been deliberately engineered to feed unrest and dissatisfaction with the Morsi government in the days before its overthrow.
To the extent that Brigadier General Salama’s thinking reflects the outlook of the Egyptian army, which is now firmly in charge of the country, it presages even tougher times ahead for Palestinians in Gaza.