An Egyptian appeals court overturned a lower court ruling naming Hamas a terrorist organization, reported Ynet. The decision, which came down Saturday, could signal an easing of tensions between Egypt and Gaza.
The Urgent Matters Appeals Court cited lack of jurisdiction in explaining its decision to reject the lower court ruling.
Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, called the decision, “correcting a previous mistake,” saying it would have “positive consequences on the relationship between Hamas and Egypt.”
Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has been out of favor since one of its leaders, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted from the presidency in 2013. That group has been labelled a terrorist group in Egypt and repressed by the army.
Lawyer Ashraf Farahat, who first brought the matter forward, remains optimistic. He told Reuters he would request that Egypt’s Foreign Ministry place Hamas on its list of terrorist organizations, based on previous judicial decisions.
“This ruling does not return us to zero. I have two rulings placing the Brotherhood and the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades on the list of terrorist organizations,” he said.
The al-Qassam Brigades are Hamas’s armed wing, classified a terrorist organization in January. Last year, the same court banned all Hamas activities in Egypt and ordered the closure of any Hamas offices, however, the order was never executed.
Both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood reject the classification by Egypt.
In recent years, Cairo has played a central role in negotiating ceasefires between Israel and Gaza. Egypt sees weapons smuggled from Gaza arriving in the hands of militants trying to topple the Egyptian government. The insurgency has spread from Islamists operating in the Sinai region to other areas of the country.
Cairo has begun clearing a buffer zone along its border with Gaza in an effort to shut down the smuggling tunnels that run beneath it.