“We are not taking sides,” he said.
Last month, Hamas shut down two news media bureaus in Gaza, saying they had presented “false news” about the Islamist government’s role in Egypt. Saudi-owned al-Arabiya news channel and Palestinian Ma’an News Agency remained closed. Directors of the new outlets deny the charges.
Last week, a group calling itself Tamarod Gaza released a video on its Facebook page calling for protests against the Hamas government on Nov. 11. “Tamarod,” meaning “rebellion” or “mutiny” in Arabic, is the same word used by the Egyptian youth movement that helped to topple Morsi.
In an e-mail exchange, a man who claimed to have a leadership role in Tamarod Gaza said the group was founded by Palestinian youths against Hamas, which he described as corrupt and oppressive. He said the group is calling for elections.
The Internet campaign was enough to get Gazans talking, which drew a quick response from Hamas officials.
“The real mutiny should be against the Israeli occupation and its collaborators,” said Abdul Salam, general secretary for the prime minister’s office in Gaza.
According to news reports from Gaza, Hamas police have been detaining alleged members of the Tamarod movement.
“We are in a critical situation, at the point of a real crisis,” said Hatem Owida, deputy economic minister for the Hamas government.
Owida said the Egyptians have stopped between 80 and 90 percent of the tunnel traffic by flooding tunnels and bulldozing entrances on their sides.
When tunnel traffic was booming, official unemployment in Gaza dropped to 27 percent, down from earlier highs of 40 percent, according to the economic ministry. Now 40,000 jobs tied indirectly to the tunnel economy are at risk, the deputy economic minister said.
The tunnels also supply tax revenue for Hamas, amounting to about 10 percent of the government’s budget, Owida said.
Israeli military and civilian officials who oversee Israel’s single commercial border crossing into Gaza at Kerem Shalom say that the number of trucks from Israel has increased more than 30 percent in recent weeks and that Gazans are importing substantial quantities of Israeli gasoline for the first time since Hamas took power.
“The recent events in Egypt represent a huge loss for Hamas,” said an Israeli army officer who monitors the crossings and declined to be quoted by name because of security concerns. “Believe me, if they are buying benzene from us? They are hurting.”
Israeli gas costs about twice as much as the government-subsidized fuel smuggled in from Egypt.
Some analysts say what is bad for Hamas is good for Israel, but in recent months, Israeli military commanders have praised Hamas for keeping law and order in the coastal strip and preventing more radical factions in Gaza from firing rockets at Israel.
“It’s been like a honeymoon these days between Hamas and Israel,” said Amos Harel, chief military correspondent for the newspaper Haaretz.
But Hamas is undeniably losing friends. Hamas has disappointed its patrons in Iran and vexed its allies in Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shiite political and militant organization, by supporting the Sunni rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Until the toppling of Morsi, Hamas could count on Egypt for some protection. But not now.
With its options limited, Hamas may just hunker down, or the movement may seek reconciliation with its longtime political rival, Fatah, which controls the West Bank. But recent attempts to mend ties have failed, and the Hamas leadership has condemned Fatah and its leader, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, for participating in U.S.-brokered peace talks with the Israelis.
“Instead of getting support from Egypt, Hamas could try to compromise with Fatah. But there is no consensus on that topic, or at least it is not discussed in public,” said Menachem Klein, a professor at Bar-Ilan University in Israel who monitors activities in Gaza.
“I am not sure that Hamas has a Plan B,” he said.
Ruth Eglash in Jerusalem contributed to this report.