EL-ARISH, Egypt (AFP) – Egyptian authorities on Thursday prevented a senior Hamas official carrying nine million dollars and two million euros in cash entering Gaza via Rafah, a security official told AFP.
Border official had held up a six-member delegation on its way back from truce talks in Cairo after insisting that they search their bags.
The officials allowed five members to cross, but prevented Gaza-based Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha, who was carrying nine million dollars and two million euros, from crossing into Gaza with the money.
“There are contacts with the finance ministry to decide whether to allow the money in,” the official said.
Hamas officials crossed several times into Gaza with large amounts of money after winning parliamentary elections in 2006, but this was the first attempt made since Hamas seized Gaza from rivals Fatah in June 2007, the official said.
In December 2006, Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya was forced to leave 35 million dollars at the Egyptian side of Rafah. The money was then transferred to a Palestinian Authority account.
Egypt on Thursday closed the Rafah crossing to all but exceptional cases after opening it to aid and wounded Palestinians during Israel’s war on Hamas.
“No humanitarian, media or medical delegations will be allowed through, nor will medical aid deliveries be permitted,” a border official told AFP, while “foreign delegations” who entered Gaza from Egypt would also be allowed to return.
Egypt allowed aid and medical supplies as well as some doctors and journalists into the Gaza Strip during Israel’s devastating 22-day offensive on the territory which ended with unilateral ceasefires on January 18.
Egypt has refused to permanently open the crossing in the absence of EU monitors and representatives of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas after Hamas ousted his forces from the territory when it took over Gaza.
Israel, which controls all Gaza crossings except Rafah, has since kept the densely populated territory closed off to all but essential supplies in order to put pressure on Hamas, which it labels a terrorist organisation.
Egypt has been mediating a lasting truce in and around the territory that would satisfy Israel’s demand for an end to smuggling through tunnels from Egypt and Hamas’s demand for the reopening of Gaza’s borders.
Cairo had proposed February 5 as a start date for a such a long-term truce, with Hamas saying it would send a delegation back to Cairo on Saturday to give its “final” response to Egypt’s proposal.