Hamas agrees with Egypt on tighter border security

Security and humanitarian issues were discussed by the two sides, marking a thaw in the Egypt-Hamas relationship.

Rafah southern Egypt Gaza border
Hamas says the security on the Gaza-Egypt Rafah border is a top priority [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Egypt has reportedly offered to provide electricity to Gaza to relieve part of its humanitarian crisis in return for Hamas agreeing to several security measures.

The Hamas delegation, headed by the movement’s new Prime Minister Yahya Sinwar, returned to the Gaza Strip on Monday after nine days of what they said was constructive meetings with Cairo officials.

Egypt agreed to fund Gaza’s sole power plant, after it was shut down in April as a result of heavy taxes levied by the Palestinian Authority on diesel fuel. In return, Hamas would tighten its security on the Rafah border.

According to Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahhar, the movement had asked to meet their Egyptian counterparts before the GCC crisis began.

“We agreed, and this is as much to our benefit as it is to theirs, to separate our borders to prevent the smuggling of drugs and weapons,” Zahhar said.

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“The delegation also discussed humanitarian issues such as freedom to travel through the Rafah border,” Zahhar told Al Jazeera.

Hamas official Musheer al-Masri told Al Jazeera that Egyptian officials had promised “practical steps to ease the siege on the Palestinian people”.

Egypt also agreed to authorise the construction of a building at the border, for stranded travellers who face curfews and sudden closures when trying to enter Gaza. 

Reports that Egypt had demanded Hamas to hand over 17 “terror suspects” in exchange for easing the blockade on Gaza were refuted by Zahhar.

He maintained that while similar demands were made by Egypt in the past, the two governments were now on the same page security-wise.

“The problem of tackling extremism is now shared throughout the region,” he said.

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Ahmad Yousef, a Hamas spokesperson, said that he hoped this visit would be the first in reconciling the rocky relationship between Egypt and Hamas.

“I hope these meetings will ease the restrictions of the Rafah border and open the door to good relations with Egypt in the near future,” he said.

“During this visit, we understood Egypt’s concern, and the reasons why they want Hamas to distance itself from Qatar and Iran and countries they consider as their adversaries.”

“We are going to meet these security concerns on the border,” he added. “But the Egyptians must know that we consider it as a lifeline for Palestinians to go back and forth.”

Relations between Egypt and Hamas have been rocky since the overthrow of former President and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammad Morsi in 2013.

Last month Hamas released its new charter which disassociated itself from the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt classifies as a “terrorist” group.

Source: Al Jazeera