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EGYPT: Gaza renews tensions with Islamist opposition in Egypt

January 8, 2009 |  8:19 am

Protests_and_cairo

Protests over the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip have reignited tensions between the Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest opposition group.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which has close ideological ties to the militant group Hamas, has arranged several demonstrations at which hundreds of protesters called on Arab armies to defend the Palestinians, cut off relations with Israel and stop exporting natural gas to the Jewish state.

The government’s response was typical. Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members were rounded up and several protests were thwarted by the police.

“The regime does not want to embarrass itself,” said Mohamed El-Beltagui, a Muslim Brotherhood member of parliament.  “The Egyptian people are all supportive of the Palestinian people in Gaza and of all resistance groups, including Hamas, and if protests are allowed, millions of Egyptians will participate.”

According to El-Beltagui, 1,400 members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested since the Israeli army launched its offensive on Gaza last week.

All indicators show that the Egyptian regime “is satisfied, if not implicated, with the ongoing attack on Gaza,” alleged El-Beltagui.

Although President Hosni Mubarak’s government has condemned the attack, many skeptics have alleged that Egypt secretly endorsed the Israeli strike to get rid of Hamas.

“All Egyptians and not only the Muslim Brotherhood want the government to translate its resentment of the Israeli strike not through the Arab League or the Security Council but by taking two important measures,” said El-Beltagui. “First, it should freeze all relations with Israel and second, open the border.”

Egypt has kept the Rafah border crossing sealed. Last week, it was opened only for passage of the injured and relief supplies.

— Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo

Photo: Egyptian women carrying Palestinian flags protest in Cairo on Tuesday. Credit: Associated Press

P.S. Get news from Gaza in your mailbox every day. The Los Angeles Times distributes a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "L.A. Times updates" and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.

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