Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh sought on Thursday to calm tensions with Egypt, a day after Egyptian police clashed with hundreds of Palestinians who tried to storm through a border crossing. "Everything that had happened was spontaneous, not planned and was not meant to take place," said Haniyeh, who heads the Hamas government that controls the Gaza Strip.
On Wednesday, Egyptian troops used water cannon and Hamas security forces had to restrain a crowd jostling for access during a brief opening of the Rafah crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. According to Reuters, some Palestinians threw stones at Egyptian forces.
Egyptian authorities suspended the operation after the clashes on Wednesday but reopened the crossing on Thursday to allow hundreds of Palestinians stranded in its territories back into the Gaza Strip. The Hamas-run interior ministry confirmed in a statement that it had coordinated the opening of the crossing with Egypt to allow stranded Palestinians to return, AFP added.
Haniyeh said the clashes at Rafah were motivated by people angered by Israel's Gaza blockade. According to him, Palestinians and Egypt shared many common interests, including the calm Cairo brokered between Hamas and Israel and efforts to reconcile Hamas with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction.