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21:30, 28 May 2017 Sunday
11:09, 30 September 2013 Monday

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Hamas warns of 'Israeli scheme' to spoil its relations with Egypt
Hamas warns of 'Israeli scheme' to spoil its relations with Egypt

"Israel is trying to send the message that it is united with Egypt against Gaza and Hamas," Gamal al-Taweel says

World Bulletin/News Desk

A high-ranking Hamas official on Monday warned against what he described as "Israeli attempts" to spoil relations between the Gaza-based Palestinian group and Cairo, saying that Egyptians needed to understand that the Hamas-run coastal enclave constituted Egypt's "first line of defense."

"Israel is trying to send the message that it is united with Egypt against Gaza and Hamas," Gamal al-Taweel told Anadolu Agency via phone. "But we don't think this will go down well in Egypt, which has always supported the Palestinian cause."

Al-Taweel said Hamas, which took power in Gaza in 2007, has only one enemy, "which is known to be the [Israeli] occupation."

On Sunday, Major General Sami Turgeman, chief of the Israeli Army's Southern Command, said the Israeli army was in constant coordination with Egyptian authorities and closely monitoring militant activity in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Yet he went on to express concern that "exaggerated" Egyptian pressure on Hamas in Gaza would backfire.

Egypt has launched an extensive crackdown on the smuggling tunnels linking Sinai to Gaza as Sinai-based militant groups upped the tempo of attacks on Egyptian police and army personnel across the peninsula.

In early July, Egypt's new military-backed rulers tightened restrictions at the Rafah crossing on the Egypt-Gaza border after toppling elected president Mohamed Morsi and cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood group which propelled him to power last year.

Morsi's July 3 ouster led to a deterioration of relations between Cairo and Hamas, which is an ideological offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

The crackdown on the smuggling tunnels has served to ratchet up pressure on the Gaza Strip's roughly 1.7 million inhabitants. The tunnels have long served as a lifeline for the Palestinian territory, which has suffered from a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007.

Egyptian officials allege that the tunnels are used to smuggle weapons into Egypt.  



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Libya extremist group Ansar al-Sharia announces dissolution
Libya extremist group Ansar al-Sharia announces dissolution

The Libyan jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia, which is linked to Al-Qaeda and deemed a terrorist organisation by the UN and United States, announced its "dissolution" in a communique published online on Saturday. Washington accuses the group of being behind the September 11, 2012 attack on the US consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi in which ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. Ansar al-Sharia is one of the jihadist groups that sprung up in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, in the chaos following the death of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011. They overran the city in 2014. East Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar earlier this month launched an offensive to oust jihadist fighters from their two remaining strongholds in Benghazi. In its communique Ansar al-Sharia said it had been "weakened" by the fighting. The group lost its leader, Mohammed Azahawi, in clashes with Haftar's forces in Benghazi at the end of 2014. Most of its members then defected to the so-called Islamic State group. Ansar al-Sharia later joined the Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi, a local alliance of Islamist militias. At its zenith, Ansar al-Sharia was present in Benghazi and Derna in eastern Syria, with offshoots in Sirte and Sabratha, western Libya. The organisation took over barracks and other sites abandoned by the ousted Kadhafi forces and transformed them into training grounds for hundreds of jihadists seeking to head to Iraq or Syria.