Hamas grateful for Egypt's allowing passage of Qatari construction material

MENA, Ahram Online, Wednesday 16 Apr 2014

Egypt has maintained a severely restricted access on the Rafah border crossing since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last July

Egyptian soldiers stand guard at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza after Egypt closed the crossing following the deadly attack on its soldiers on Sunday, August 6, 2012 (Photo: reuters)

Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haneya thanked the Egyptian authorities on Wednesday for facilitating the entry of a Qatari grant in the form of construction materials to rebuild the Gaza district, MENA reported.

Haneya, in a press conference following an inspection of the Qatari grant's construction work, called on Egyptian authorities to permanently reopen the Rafah border crossing, the land passage between Gaza and Egypt which the latter has maintained severely restricted access to since last July.

"The call for the opening of the crossing comes out of love for Egypt and the recognition of its historic role in supporting the Palestinian cause," Haneya added.

Following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian army destroyed hundreds of tunnels running beneath the border through which construction materials and fuel were transferred. This caused the Gaza Strip's worst ever energy crisis, with power outages lasting up to 16 hours a day.

In March, Hamas described the closure of the Rafah crossing as a "crime against humanity," and the UN criticised it for its effect on "the civilian population, including patients awaiting medical treatment".

Egyptian authorities have maintained that they were protecting their own land from a spike in terrorist attacks that targeted police and army personnel in Sinai and extended to other governorates across Egypt.

In March, an Egyptian court also banned all activities in Egypt by Hamas pending a court verdict in an espionage case involving ousted president Morsi and 36 members of his Muslim Brotherhood group, as well as members of the Islamist Palestinian group.

The prosecution accuses the Brotherhood members of collaborating with Gaza rulers Hamas, Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah and other organisations "inside and outside" Egypt to smuggle arms, organise military training for group members in the Gaza Strip, and fund a scheme to stir chaos and threaten national security in Egypt.

Hamas has denied any involvement in prison breaks or illegal cooperation with the ousted Islamist leader.

The move also comes amid growing tension between Egypt and Qatar.

Qatari-Egyptian relations have deteriorated since Morsi was overthrown, as the Qatari government supported him and his Muslim Brotherhood during the Islamist president's troubled one-year rule.

Egypt's interim authorities have since accused Qatar and its satellite TV station Al-Jazeera of being biased in favour of the outlawed Brotherhood, which was deemed a terrorist organisation by the Egyptian government in December, a decision that was later upheld by a Cairo court in February.

Despite the recent fallout, speaking at the Arab League summit in Kuwait last February, Qatari Prince Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad insisted that his country was keen on maintaining strong relations with Egypt, stressing "the brotherly links" between the two countries.

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