By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - Palestinian protesters raised banners and placards on Friday in the Gaza Strip condemning neighboring Egypt's ban on activities of the Hamas Islamist group.
Senior Hamas leader Khalil Al-Hayya said Tuesday's decision by a Cairo court to ban Hamas' work and activity in the country was an attempt to "criminalize resistance" to Israel and would not deter it from its fight against the Jewish state.
"The rifle Hamas is holding to protect our people and our land will never drop," Hayya said as hundreds protested outside a former Egyptian representative office in Gaza City.
Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities in Cairo have declared a terrorist group and which they have repressed since the army ousted one of its leaders, Mohamed Mursi, from the presidency in July.
During his year in power, Mursi gave red-carpet treatment to Hamas, angering many secular and liberal Egyptians who saw this as part of a creeping Islamist takeover following the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
The military-buttressed authorities now classify Hamas as a significant security risk, accusing it of supporting an Islamist insurgency that has spread quickly since Mursi's fall, allegations the Palestinian group denies.
An Egyptian court also ordered the closure of Hamas offices in Egypt, one of the judges overseeing the case told Reuters. The judge stopped short of declaring Hamas a terrorist group, saying the court did not have the jurisdiction to do so.
Hamas, which rejects Israel's existence, seized control of the Gaza coastal territory in 2007, widening a split with the Western-backed Fatah movement headed by President Mahmoud Abbas which holds sway in Palestinian territory in the West Bank.
(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Angus MacSwan)