Palestinian PM returns to Gaza, leaves money in Egypt
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh crossed from Egypt into the Gaza Strip on Thursday night, leaving behind the $35 million he received from his tour of Muslim states.
Haniyeh, a leader of Hamas, was prevented for hours from returning after a two-week tour abroad, following the closure of Rafah crossing.
"It is closed. The operation has stopped for a while until the situation with Haniyeh is clarified," said the spokeswoman for the European Border Assistance Mission, according to Reuters. Israeli security sources said Defense Minister Amir Peretz had instructed the crossing to be closed. "He is suspected of planning to bring in millions of dollars donated by Iran," one Israel security source said.
Haniyeh has visited in Qatar, Syria, Iran and Sudan, trying to raise money for his government. He has received assurances of up to $350 million in funding for next year.
Later, Israel agreed to allow Haniyeh to cross from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, but without the $35 million in cash he had brought from the tour. Reports said the money would be left in Egypt, and on Friday be transferred to the bank account of the Arab League in Cairo.
Hundreds of Hamas supporters had gathered at the Rafah crossing to await Haniyeh's return. Gunbattles raged at the border Thursday night, after armed Hamas activists, enraged by the ban on Haniyeh, seized control of the terminal and exchanged fire with Palestinian and Egyptian guards. The gunbattles left at least 18 people wounded. Speaking on the radio, Haniyeh called on the gunmen to leave the area so the monitors could return.
© 2006 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)