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CAIRO (ChurchMilitant.com) - Egypt's Catholic and Coptic prelates are giving their blessing to a $500 million contribution to Hamas, despite evidence that the jihadist organization uses charitable donations to fund terrorism, suicide bombers and rocket attacks against Israel.
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a devout Muslim, announced Tuesday that his country would send half a billion dollars to support the reconstruction of Gaza following Hamas' recent conflict with Israel.
Coptic Orthodox Church's Pope Tawadros II immediately issued a statement praising the initiative as a gesture of concrete support for the "Palestinian brothers, in the humanitarian ordeal they are undergoing" given Egypt's "historic role" in supporting the Arab people.
The Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Egypt, presided over by Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, also published a statement lauding al-Sisi's gift "to support our Palestinian brothers."
"It is sad to see Pope Tawadros endorsing the financing of Hamas, which is what money for the 'reconstruction of Gaza' will go to in reality," eminent Islamic historian Robert Spencer told Church Militant, explaining Tawadros' "refusal to endorse this funding could result in a new round of the persecution of Christians in Egypt."
Spencer, author of 21 books on Islam and the Middle East, elaborated:
Pope Francis also has never condemned Hamas, and this causes further confusion among Roman Catholics as to how the conflict should be morally evaluated. Pope Francis may be keeping quiet for the same reason that Pope Tawadros is speaking — fear of Islamic reprisals. But this only encourages more jihad violence against Christians in the long run, as the jihadis see that it works.
Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayyeb — Pope Francis' chief Muslim dialogue partner and co-signatory to the pontiff's Human Fraternity concordat with Islam — also hailed Egypt's dole for "reflecting the Palestinian cause as a priority for Egyptians and Arabs."
"It is also an affirmation of Egypt's support of the legitimate and fair Palestinian cause, and the Palestinians' rights in establishing an independent state with Jerusalem as the capital," al-Tayyeb emphasized.
However, Ambassador Dennis Ross, a peace negotiator between Israel and the Palestinians for at least four U.S. presidents, insists that donors "need to put Hamas in a position where they have to choose between their rockets and the well-being of Gaza."
"The issue is massive reconstruction for no rockets," Ross said. "And the minute you see irregularities, everything stops."
Ross noted the failure of earlier efforts to rebuild Gaza. Any future monitoring system would need to be an effective, round-the-clock endeavor that would halt reconstruction if Hamas was found to be storing, building or preparing to launch rockets, he maintained.
The Trump administration stopped funding aid for Gaza through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in 2018, but Biden restored it in April, just before the conflict began.
Multiple sources on the ground told Church Militant that the Egyptian prelates had "bowed to Islam as dhimmis" [literally "protected persons subject to Muslim hegemony"] and were content "to roar like lions against Israel and purr like pussycats while petted by Hamas."
While Egypt's ecclesiastical hierarchy continues to denounce Israel, it has tacitly endorsed Gaza's rulers even though Hamas' (Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya) own declarations explicitly identify it as a jihadist outfit committed to the destruction of Israel, sources added.
Vittorio Emanuele Parsi, professor of international relations at Italy's Sacred Heart Catholic University, notes the failure of prelates like Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah to condemn terrorism because they are too close to Hamas.
Coptic Pope Cyril VI even banned Egyptian Christians from going on pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1967 and the current incumbent Pope Tawadros II has upheld the ban while not enforcing it. Violators were often denied Communion and at times threatened with excommunication.
"The position of the Church remains unchanged, which is not going to Jerusalem without all our Egyptian (Muslim) brothers," Church spokesman Boulos Halim said, responding to Pope Tawadros II breaking the ban to attend a funeral in Jerusalem in 2015.
"The myth of Hamas needing foreign aid for reconstruction is humbug. Most of the money will go into the pockets of corrupt Hamas leaders and towards the funding of more rockets in preparation for the next assault on Israel," an Egyptian academic told Church Militant.
Forbes rates Hamas as the world's second-richest terrorist organization with an annual turnover of $1 billion, second only to Islamic State (ISIS) with its yearly $2 billion turnover.
Through a charitable network, Hamas facilitates terrorism by raising budgets for terrorist operations, money laundering funds for terrorists, employing militants, providing support to terrorist cells and raising popular Palestinian (and broader Muslim) support for terrorism, writes Matthew Levitt in Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad.
"A vast majority of the funding received by Hamas is humanitarian aid intended for the people of Gaza," World is One News (WION) reported. Yet it "rarely reaches them," as "Hamas spends 55 per cent of its budget on the military and merely 5 per cent for rehabilitating its people," it noted.
Hamas leaders, who enjoy living in plush hotels in Turkey and have swimming pools and country clubs, spend over $100 million a year on the group's military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, according to estimates by Israeli and Palestinian sources.
Qatar, a notorious sponsor of jihadi terrorism, is Hamas' chief financial backer and has so far transferred $1.8 billion to Hamas. Iran pays Hamas $70 million per year, equivalent to $6 million per month. Hamas also collects $27 million dollars in annual taxes.
"The simple conclusion that we can reach is that Turkey, Qatar and Iran all played varying roles in supporting Hamas, whether financially, militarily, politically or a combination," a U.S. joint hearing of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the House of Representatives was told in 2014.
Hamas' rocket arsenal ranges from the primitive homemade Qassam — a metal tube filled with explosives with a range of five kilometers — to the sophisticated Syrian-made M-302 with a range from 100 to 200 kilometers.
Hamas also fires Soviet-styled al-Quds rockets — with a range between 18 and 30 kilometers — and the M-75 rocket, designed with Iranian technical help.
The terror group used a new rocket in its attack against Jerusalem on Monday called the A-120, which is said to have a range of about 120 kilometers.
Israeli military estimates Hamas as having 14,000 rockets, 300 anti-tank and 100 antiaircraft missiles as well as dozens of unmanned aerial vehicles and an army of about 30,000 militants, including 400 naval commandos. The cheaper missiles cost around $800 apiece.
Hamas' 2017 document outlining its principles declares the establishment of Israel as "entirely illegal" and stresses "there shall be no recognition of the legitimacy" of Israel.
"Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious," the Hamas 1988 covenant states, citing Bukhari's hadith: "The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees."
Gaza has about 2,500 Christians out of a total population of more than 1.5 million people. The majority of the Christians belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, with just under 200 Catholics living in Gaza.