Hamas leader: Egypt will protect Gaza from Israeli attack (ISRAEL HAYOM) Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff 07/15/12)
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Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh says he is confident that Egypt´s new
president, Mohammed Morsi, will fully open Egypt´s borders with
Gaza • President Morsi´s position will soon be put to test when he
meets officials from Hamas and the secular Fatah movement.
The head of the Islamist terrorist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip said
on Friday he was confident Egypt´s new president would shield the
Palestinian enclave from Israeli attack and fully open its borders to
end a trade blockade.
Mohammed Morsi, who won power in last month´s presidential election
in Egypt, is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and ideologically
close to Hamas.
The Gazan Islamists long complained that his predecessor Hosni
Mubarak, ousted from power last year in a popular revolt, sided not
just with Israel, but also with their political rival — Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas´ Fatah movement.
So far, Hamas has seen little sign of a policy shift since Morsi took
office and diplomats said the Egyptian leader had so many domestic
problems that he could ill-afford to dedicate much time to re-tooling
Cairo´s relations with the Palestinians.
However, Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas´s Gaza government, told
worshippers in a mosque that change was coming.
"We are confident that Egypt, the revolution led by Morsi, will never
provide cover for any new aggression or war on Gaza," he said. "We
are confident that Egypt, the revolution led by Morsi, will not take
any part in blocking Gaza," he added.
Israel launched a military offensive against Gaza in late 2008 in an
effort to end repeated rocket attacks from Hamas, which refuses to
recognize Israel´s right to exist. Some 1,400 Palestinians and 13
Israelis died in the three-week war.
Low level violence continues and Israel still imposes a rigid trade
blockade on Gaza, arguing that it is needed to prevent weapons of
arms-making materials into the enclave.
Politicians in Israel have expressed alarm in private over the
election of Morsi and fear that their country´s historical peace
treaty with Egypt could be eroded over time.
Mubarak helped police the Gaza blockade and did not let any goods
officially cross the border, saying this was part of long-standing
accords with Washington and Israel. However, Cairo always turned a
blind eye to a thriving black market business with Gaza conducted
through a warren of underground tunnels.
A few hundred people cross in and out of Gaza every day via Egypt and
the number of passengers has increased since Morsi took office.
However, officials on both sides attribute this to the start of the
holiday season rather than any policy shift.
Morsi´s position will soon be put to test when he meets officials
from Hamas and the secular Fatah, which is backed by Western powers
and rules in the nearby West Bank.
Protocol means that Morsi will almost certainly see Abbas first, with
one source saying it would happen on Wednesday. No date has yet been
set for a Hamas delegation to be received.
Both President Abbas and Hamas are likely to be pressed by Egypt to
end their long-standing hostilities, which at one point saw the two
sides fight a brief civil war in Gaza.
"No one can help the Palestinians more than they can help themselves.
They should take daring steps to end their rifts," an official in
Cairo told Reuters by phone.
Repeated attempts at Palestinian reconciliation have ended in
failure, with the two sides at loggerheads on everything from setting
a date for elections to cooperating on security.
"Theoretically, Morsi´s election gave a boost to Hamas, but the man
has a million domestic problems to handle at home," a diplomat in the
region told Reuters, asking not to be named.
"If Morsi publicly backs Hamas, he would be seen as supporting the
Palestinian division and that would reflect badly on his foreign
policy. He has to tread it carefully," he added.
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