Mohammad Mursi Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: In 2009, Egypt’s then-president Hosni Mubarak implicitly accused Qatar of standing behind an attempt by Palestinians from neighbouring Gaza Strip to storm the Sinai Peninsula.

“Egypt can respond to the poisonous media campaign and pressure directed against it from a sisterly Arab country and strike back hard,” Mubarak said. “You live in a glass house. Don’t bid over Egypt’s role in serving and supporting the Palestinian cause,” he added, apparently addressing the Qatari rulers.

In the final years in the rule of Mubarak, who was forced to step down in a 2011 uprising, relations between Egypt and Qatar were strained.

In post-Mubarak months, Qatar used its news network Al Jazeera to discredit the former president and rally support for its ally, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar, the major financial backer of the Brotherhood, offered the Islamist group around $8 billion (Dh29.37 billion) in an apparent attempt to tighten its hold on state institutions after the Brotherhood reached power in 2012.

The Brotherhood’s divisive rule and mishandling of Egypt’s political and economic problems triggered street protests and worsened the situation despite lavish support from Qatar.

In mid-2013, the army deposed president Mohammad Mursi, a senior official in the Brotherhood. Egypt has since experienced a string of deadly attacks blamed on the Brotherhood and its financier, Qatar. The latter has become a safe haven for several Islamists wanted in Egypt for inciting and involvement in violence.

Doha has repeatedly rejected Cairo’s requests to hand over the convicted fugitives, including officials in the Brotherhood, which was designated a terrorist group in Egypt in late 2013.

Moreover, Al Jazeera continued its anti-Egypt campaign, branding Mursi’s toppling as a coup.

In 2015, the then Saudi king Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz sought to defuse tensions between Qatar and Egypt.

Hopes for reconciliation further rose that year when Qatari Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani attended a major conference in the Red Sea town of Sharm Al Shaikh aimed at reinvigorating the Egyptian economy.

After a brief lull, Qatar resumed displaying hostility against Egypt.

Late last year, Al Jazeera broadcast a documentary it had produced projecting the Egyptian army in an unfavourable light. The move outraged Egyptians and fuelled tensions between Cairo and Doha.

Last week, Egypt joined Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar over its support for terrorist groups. The four countries also placed on terror lists dozens of militants and groups associated with Qatar.

Egypt said its decision to sever ties with Qatar was due to Doha’s hostile line.

“All efforts have failed to dissuade Qatar from supporting terrorist organisations, mainly the terrorist Brotherhood and sheltering its leaders convicted by court rulings over implication in terror operations that targeted Egypt’s security and stability,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry added in a statement.

The ministry also accused Qatar of promoting the agenda of terror groups and meddling in Egypt’s affairs and those of other states in the region.

The boycott of Qatar has drawn applause in Egypt, which has around 300,000 citizens working in the wealthy country.

“Egypt has run out of patience with Qatar and its terrorist regime,” said Ahmad Moussa, a prominent columnist in Egypt’s semi-official newspaper Al Ahram.

“I think this step [severance of ties] is just the beginning in bringing Qatar to account for all the crimes Tamim and his gang have committed against Egyptians since 2011,” Moussa wrote on Sunday.

Moussa, believed to be connected to security agencies, said Egypt had “documented proofs” of Qatar’s support for terrorists and funding arms sales for extremists in Libya, Syria and West Africa. “These proofs will be shown at the UN Security Council.”