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Egyptian appeals court overturns decision naming Hamas a terrorist organization

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CAIRO — An Egyptian court overturned a decision naming Hamas a terrorist organization Saturday, a ruling coming after months of increasing hostility to the blockaded rulers of the Gaza Strip.

The Urgent Matters Appeals Court cited a lack of jurisdiction as the reason for annulling the earlier court's ruling.

Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, welcomed the court's ruling, saying it would have "positive consequences on the relationship between Hamas and Egypt."

Egypt initially declared the group a terrorist organization in February. That ruling further isolated Hamas, which once found open support under Egypt's toppled Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Egypt's new government recently has begun clearing a buffer zone along its border with Gaza Strip in an attempt to destroy a cross-border network of tunnels that Hamas considers a lifeline.

In recent months Egypt has appeared increasingly hostile to Hamas, which it has blamed for violence in the country's restive Sinai Peninsula. The secretive movement, founded in Gaza in 1987 as an offshoot of the region's Egyptian-originated Muslim Brotherhood, faces a growing cash crunch and has yet to lay out a strategy to extract Gaza from its increasingly dire situation.

There was no immediate government reaction to the court's decision.

An Egyptian court banned Hamas' military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, and designated it a terrorist organization in January. In 2014, a similar ruling in the same court banned all Hamas activities in Egypt and ordered the closure of any Hamas offices, though the order apparently was never carried out. It wasn't immediately clear how — or if — Saturday's ruling would affect those previous decisions.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Monday, March 23, 2015, file photo, Palestinian masked militants of Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, a military wing of Hamas, take part in a parade to mark the 11th anniversary of the Israeli assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin in Gaza, in the northern Gaza Strip. Egypt's state news agency is reporting a court has overturned a decision naming Hamas a terrorist organization. The MENA news agency reported Saturday that the Urgent Matters Appeals Court made the decision. They cited a lack of jurisdiction for overturning the early court's ruling. (AP Photo/Adel Hana, File)
FILE - In this Monday, March 23, 2015, file photo, Palestinian masked militants of Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, a military wing of Hamas, take part in a parade to mark the 11th anniversary of the Israeli assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin in Gaza, in the northern Gaza Strip. Egypt's state news agency is reporting a court has overturned a decision naming Hamas a terrorist organization. The MENA news agency reported Saturday that the Urgent Matters Appeals Court made the decision. They cited a lack of jurisdiction for overturning the early court's ruling. (AP Photo/Adel Hana, File)

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