A recent Egyptian court ruling that had designated the Palestinian Hamas movement a “terrorist organization” was annulled Thursday. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri welcomed the annulment as “an important step in the right direction” in stabilizing relations with Egypt, according to World Bulletin News in Istanbul.
Last month, an Egyptian court deemed Hamas -- the Palestinian militant Islamist organization that controls the neighboring Gaza Strip -- a “terrorist” group and banned their activities, due to claims that Hamas had orchestrated attacks in Egypt via tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border that link the Sinai Peninsula to the blockaded coastal strip. Abu Zuhri denounced the court’s decision at the time and said it “is shocking, critical and targets the Palestinian people and Palestinian resistance forces,” according to Al Jazeera.
But the ruling was rendered invalid Thursday after Egyptian lawyer Samir Sabri, who had filed the lawsuit, withdrew the case, just weeks after the Egyptian government said it would appeal the verdict. Sabri said he decided to withdraw the case to remove “obstacles which Egypt’s political leadership might face in serving its role in the Palestinian reconciliation,” according to World Bulletin News.
Abu Zuhri praised the withdrawal of the case Friday and hailed the ruling’s annulment. “We are hoping the decision would lead to more stable relations with Egypt,” he told the Anadolu Agency in Cairo on Friday.
Egypt has played a critical role as a mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli and the Fatah-Hamas conflicts, since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Egypt brokered an open-ended ceasefire between Hamas and Israel last August, concluding 50 days of warfare that killed more than 2,200 people and displaced hundreds of thousands. The ceasefire, albeit fragile, has since held.
Earlier this month, Egyptian authorities announced the main border crossing with Gaza would reopen once they handed over control to the Palestinian Authority. Egypt closed the Rafah border crossing, which is Gaza’s main portal to the world, last year amid growing tensions with Hamas.
Egypt-Hamas relations soured in July 2013 after the military-led ousting of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a longtime leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt has since declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group, according to BBC News. Hamas is a nationalist-Islamist spinoff of the Brotherhood, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.