The rule of holes: when in one, stop digging.
This proverb is apparently lost on the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. The faction, which controls the Gaza Strip, has been under intense fire from the Egyptian military since the toppling of Mohammed Morsi last month. The Egyptian army has largely shut down the Egypt-Gaza border while destroying hundreds of subterranean tunnels connecting Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula, which serve as Hamas's financial lifeline for a wide array of goods, not to mention hard currency, through the practice of bulk cash smuggling.
The Egyptian military has made it clear that it views Hamas as an enemy because it is an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood, which lately has been the target of unprecedented army violence. More than 600 were killed in clashes across the country in recent days.
Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, went on record as saying, "Hamas condemns the terrible massacre in Nahda square and at Rabaa al-Adawiyya, and we call for an end to the bloodshed and to excesses against peaceful demonstrators." This statement echoed a piece on Hamas' Arabic website two days ago, calling upon the military to halt the violence.
The faction's website this morning cites prime minister Ismail Haniyeh as saying that Hamas has "no role" in the recent bloodshed, and lamenting the loss of Muslim lives. However, at the same time, Hamas supporters staged an anti-military protest at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
Invoking the ire of the Egyptian military is the latest misstep among many that has left Hamas isolated and desperate for regional patronage and protection. Admittedly, there is little that Hamas could say to mitigate the animus of the Egyptian military, which clashed with the Muslim Brotherhood over its Hamas policy during the last year. But condemnations will be viewed as provocations. And we have seen how the military responds to provocations.
Jonathan Schanzer is vice president for research at Foundation for Defense of Democracies.