The Palestinian prime minister cut short a trip abroad in order to return to Gaza to quell the fighting between Hamas and Fatah.

 

But Israel closed the Rafah border crossing from Egypt shortly after Haniya arrived at an airport near the border.

 

Haniya and his delegation were held at the closed border for about seven hours as Israel blocked him from carrying $35 million into Gaza.

 

He was finally allowed to cross into Gaza late on Thursday night, but was unable to bring the money for the cash-strapped Palestinian government.

 

"We know the party that shot directly at our cars… and we also know how to deal with this"

Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister

Maria Telleria, a spokeswoman for European monitors at the crossing, said Haniya left the funds in Egypt.

 

Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, said: "The money he was carrying is not across the border, it is now in a bank in Egypt."

 

Rafah terminal storm

 

At least 20 people were wounded in clashes at the border between gunmen from Hamas and the rival Fatah faction of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

 

Hamas fighters, angry that Israel was preventing Haniya from returning, stormed the Rafah terminal.

 

The pro-Fatah presidential guard, responsible for securing the area, opened fire.

 

The European monitors who police the crossing fled.

 

'Let's liberate this place'

 

Hamas security officials chanted "God is Great, let's liberate this place" as they took over the arrival hall, and border guards escorted the European monitors to safety.

 

Over 50 men greeted Haniya upon his return
Two loud explosions rocked the area, and security officials said Hamas officials blew a hole in the border fence about half a mile from the terminal.

 

Thursday's unrest is likely to strain the US-brokered deal that turned over control of the crossing to the Palestinians last year after four decades of Israeli control. The border can only operate in the presence of European monitors.

 

A senior Israeli security official said Amir Peretz, the Israeli defence minister, had ordered the border to be closed not to block Haniya's entry but to keep the money out.

 

The official said Israel had information the money would be used to strengthen Hamas or fund terror attacks, but he declined to provide further details.

 

Haniya left Gaza on November 28 for what was supposed to be a month-long trip around the region, with the goal of raising money for his government.