Clashes between Egyptian military and armed groups have taken a toll on parts of the Sinai peninsula.
Protests have broken out in the Gaza Strip against an Egyptian court’s decision to declare Hamas a “terrorist” organisation, just weeks after the Palestinian group’s armed wing was given the same designation.
A judicial source told AFP news agency that the court issued the verdict on Saturday, a ruling seen as in keeping with a systematic crackdown on Islamist groups by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Palestinians throughout refugee camps and cities in Gaza held demonstrations in protest at the decision.
The verdict resulted from two separate private suits filed by two lawyers against Hamas, the de-facto rulers of Gaza, a 360sq km enclave.
Sami Abu Zuhri, the Hamas spokesman in Gaza City, denounced the ruling as “a desperate attempt to export Egypt’s crisis”.
“The Egyptian court decision … is shocking, critical and targets the Palestinian people and Palestinian resistance forces,” he said.
Mustafa Barghouti, an independent Palestinian politician, told Al Jazeera the verdict “is a very unwise decision” that carries political complications.
“Hamas is part of the Palestinian national unity movement, and this decision is not useful,” Barghouti said.
String of attacks
Saturday’s ruling comes just days after Egypt adopted a new anti-terrorism law allowing the authorities to close the premises of any declared “terrorist” organisation, and to freeze its assets as well as those of its members.
The relationship between Egypt’s authorities and Hamas has soured since the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi as president in July 2013.
Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt also banned after the military coup in 2013.
Since then, Egyptian authorities have accused Hamas of aiding armed groups, who have waged a string of deadly attacks on security forces in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
In January, an Egyptian court also declared Hamas’ armed wing al-Qassam Brigades a “terrorist” group.
The case was based on allegations that al-Qassam staged attacks to support the Muslim Brotherhood, and carried out deadly operations in the Sinai Peninsula in October 2014, allegations that the group denied.
Armed groups in Sinai have killed scores of policemen and soldiers since Morsi’s overthrow, pledging revenge for a crackdown on his supporters that has left more than 1,400 people dead.
Most of the attacks, however, have been claimed by the armed group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which has pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.