Cairo, 05 Rajab 1437/12 April 2016 (MINA) – Relations between Hamas and Egypt have “improved noticeably” following rounds of talks held between Hamas and Egyptian officials in March, Egyptian security sources said.
The first round of meetings addressed the Egyptian Ministry of Interior’s allegations that Hamas was involved in the assassination of former Egyptian public prosecutor Hisham Barakat, as well as the ongoing insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) reported, quoting Ma’an.
According to the sources, Egyptian officials reportedly told Hamas officials that the Palestinian movement was not serious about protecting their shared borders. The Egyptian government has in the past accused Hamas of assisting the insurgency, although Hamas strongly denies the allegations.
The second meeting, the sources added, took place after Hamas leaders from Gaza traveled to Qatar for consultations with the movement’s exiled leaders, including chief of
Hamas’ politburo Khalid Mashal.
After the Doha consultations, Hamas officials returned to Cairo and pledged to take quick and serious steps towards reconciliation with political rival Fatah and to prevent any violations of the Egyptian borders through smuggling tunnels from Gaza into the Sinai, the sources said.
Egyptian officials also told their Hamas counterparts that talks would start as soon as possible between Egypt and the Palestinian Authority about the possibility of permanently opening the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza.
Egyptian officials and other Palestinian political factions have in the past urged Hamas to relinquish control of the Rafah border crossing to the PA.
The sources said Egypt would consider opening the border and create commercial relations with the Gaza Strip if Hamas “shows good will towards Palestinian reconciliation and towards protecting the borders with Egypt.”
Deputy editor-in-chief of Egypt’s state-run al-Ahram newspaper Ashraf Abu al-Houl reiterated to Ma’an on Sunday evening that Egypt asked Hamas to allow the PA’s presidential guards to take control of the Rafah crossing.
Egyptians officials reportedly asserted that talks about the crossing with a single Palestinian faction — referring to Hamas — behind the back of the PA and other factions would be “illegal.”
Commenting on the situation, al-Houl said, “the ball is now in Hamas’ court.”
Al-Houl added that “we shouldn’t overstate the outcome of the recent Cairo meetings between Hamas and Egyptian officials,” despite the fact that Hamas made promises to fight terrorism and prevent any violation of its shared border with Egypt.
Al-Houl also refuted recent reports about Egypt asking Hamas to help maintain security in the Sinai Peninsula. He said these were “rumors” because Egypt would never allow any “foreign entity to operate in its territories no matter what the reason could be.”
The Rafah crossing on the besieged enclave’s southern border with Egypt was sealed indefinitely by Egyptian authorities when violence erupted after Muhammad Morsi was thrown from power in the summer of 2013. The crossing has been almost entirely sealed since.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who rose to power after Morsi was deposed, accuses the Hamas movement which governs the Gaza Strip of aiding militants in the neighboring Sinai Peninsula in carrying out attacks on Egyptian military personnel, allegations that Hamas has denied.
The Rafah closure has further devastated Gaza’s more than 1.8 million Palestinian residents, for whom the crossing served a lifeline amid Israel’s nine-year military blockade of the small Palestinian territory. (T/R07/R01)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)