Egypt’s first freely elected president, Morsi also handled the Gaza conflict in a way starkly contrasting with his predecessor, longtime authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled nearly two years ago.
An ally of Israel and deeply opposed to Hamas, Mubarak’s regime helped Israel blockade Gaza after Hamas seized the territory in 2007. When Israel and Hamas last went to war in 2008, Mubarak was accused by critics of secretly supporting Israel’s ground offensive. During that offensive, far bloodier than the past week’s, Mubarak kept the sole border passenger crossing between Egypt and Gaza mostly shut, preventing some of the more seriously wounded Palestinians from receiving treatment in Egyptian hospitals. Mubarak’s regime was also wary of any deals that would legitimize Hamas’ rule in Gaza. Mubarak feared that a strong Hamas would embolden Islamists at home, particularly his nemesis, the Brotherhood.
Morsi has not completely thrown open the crossing as Hamas would like, but during the past week, Egypt let in wounded Palestinians and bolstered Hamas with waves of delegations entering Gaza to show their support — from Egyptian activists to the foreign ministers of Turkey, Qatar, Algeria, Sudan and others.
Morsi also dispatched his prime minister to Gaza soon after hostilities began on a heavily symbolic visit. A photograph of a tearful Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil kissing the lifeless body of a Palestinian child was splashed across the front page of every Cairo newspaper.