London, Asharq Al-Awsat- A Palestinian rocket exploded inside Egyptian territories the night before last without causing human casualties or damaging installations.
Egyptian security organs meanwhile began questioning the Egyptians returning from the Gaza Strip following reports that they had entered the Palestinian territories to join the “Hamas” movement for carrying out operations against Israel. On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood group denounced through its General Guide Muhammad Mahdi Akif the attack on the Egyptian soldiers at the Rafah crossing but avoided mentioning Hamas. This was the group’s first comment on the incident.
Egyptian security sources said the Palestinian rocket fell10 meters from the international borders between Egypt and Israel and speculated that it was fired by Palestinian activists at the Karm Abu-Salim crossing but missed its target and fell inside Egyptian territories. They pointed out that the rocket caused a medium-sized crater in an uninhabited area.
Meanwhile, Egyptian security organs began to question dozens of Egyptians who returned from the Gaza Strip during the past three days following receipt of information about their attempts to join Hamas. The security organs started these investigations after noticing that most of the Egyptians returning from the Strip were not merchants or inhabitants of Sinai who are have family relations with the Palestinians and that some of them did not present realistic reasons for entering the Palestinian territories. Eyewitnesses were cited as saying that the Egyptian returnees who were detained inside the High School for Girls in Rafah were moved in two buses to an interrogation center. The security sources estimated the number of Egyptians who entered the Gaza Strip after the breakthrough at the borders at round 20,000, most of them went for trade, picnicking, and visits to relatives.
Information had reached the security organs that some hard-line Egyptians succeeded in entering the Palestinian territories and some of them tried to join Hamas for jihad against Israel but the movement asked them to return to Egypt after thanking them.
Meanwhile, a Hamas official ruled out matters between the movement and Cairo reaching the point where Political Bureau Chairman Khalid Mishal, dismissed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, and Hamas leaders in Gaza Strip Mahmud al-Zahhar and Muhammad Siyam would be declared personas non grata and not allowed to enter Egyptian territories. The official, who asked to remain unnamed, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I do not believe that matters will reach this point.” But he acknowledged that relations between the two sides have reached an unprecedented crisis and said the “situation is very critical and matters are not good or assuring.” He added: “Reports of an ease intension are baseless.” According to this Hamas source, the Egyptian side listened to the Hamas delegation led by Mishal which visited Cairo during the borders crisis but did not give any promises of any kind, contrary to what was said. There were moreover no agreements over the borders and crossings as some had stated and that all the talk was in general about the possibility of helping the sick and others.
But things became exacerbated recently and the signs of this, as the source said, were the statements by Egyptian officials starting with President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu-al-Ghayt who threatened to break legs and ending with the official media organs. Sources in the Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed their surprise at these rumors, particularly as the Hamas delegation’s visit to Cairo achieved its purpose. The source told Asharq Al-Awsat that there were constant contacts between the concerned Egyptian parties and the Hamas leadership and that Egypt was determined to continue its efforts by contacting all the Palestinian Authority’s parties, Hamas, Israel, and the EU.
The Israeli “Jerusalem Post” newspaper had cited sources close to Hamas as saying that Cairo decided to consider Hamas’s four leaders personas non grata and also to stop all contacts with the Hamas leadership because of the borders incidents.