New record in Hamas-Egypt tensions? Cairo has decided to cut all contact with heads of the Hamas movement, both in the Palestinian territories, and abroad, "high-ranking Egyptian officials were quoted as saying.
In Monday's edition, independent paper al-Mesryoon, which is affiliated with the Egyptian opposition, reported that Cairo has decided to reject any requests by Hamas officials for entry visas to Egypt in the near future, and to freeze all channels of diplomatic and security communications with the movement.
According to a senior official, the decision was made as part of a series of steps to respond to what the Egyptians called "Hamas' media defamation campaign against Egypt".
The Egyptians say the public campaign is being led by the organization's most senior and well-known figures: Politburo chief Khaled Mashaal and member of the political bureau Mohammed Nazzal in Damascus, and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and senior figure Mahmoud al-Zahar in the Gaza Strip.
According to the sources, the severing of ties is not related to the failure of Egyptian-mediated talks to reconcile between Hamas and Fatah, but comes as a response to "the organizated media campaign that Hamas officials are waging against Egyptian figures, by defaming them in Arab satellite television stations and in Arab media."
Months of tension, accusations
The tension between Hamas and Egypt has been escalating in recent months, and is rooted in Egypt's consistent refusal to open Rafah crossing, its construction of the steel fence on the Gaza border, and its war against smuggling tunnels.
Last month, Hamas accused Egypt of spraying poisonous gas into one of the tunnels, which led to the death of four Palestinians.
Developments last Wednesday only added fuel to the fire. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Egypt of torturing 30 Palestinian detainees in its custody, using electric shocks and prolonged hangings.
Later, it was reported that Hamas heads had learned from Palestinians who were held in Egyptian prisons that the spokesman's brother, Yusef Abu Zuhri, was killed from an electric shock in the Egyptian security forces' facilities in Cairo, and did not die in hospital of low blood pressure as the Egyptians claimed.
Also last week, a Palestinian fisherman was killed when his boat collided with an Egyptian naval vessel in Egypt's territorial waters. Gazans said the Egyptian sailors beat the fisherman to death with clubs and pipes.
The Hamas government demanded the Egyptian interior minister probe the incident, and asked the Egyptian Union of Fishermen's Cooperatives to condemn the act.
Shortly after the incident, another tense event took place when Hamas security forces announced they had defused a bomb near the Egyptian embassy in Gaza City, which has been inactive since Hamas took over the Strip in 2007.