ISMAILIA, Egypt - A senior Hamas politician, trying to bypass a financial boycott on the Palestinians, attempted to cross into the Gaza Strip from Egypt yesterday carrying 2 million euros, Egyptian border officials said. The move came two days after the Cairo-based Arab League pledged to break a Western economic boycott imposed on the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the victory of Islamist militant group Hamas in legislative elections last January.
"The Palestinian official arrived at the border and informed the Egyptian side that he was carrying about 2 million euros, collected on a trip to Saudi Arabia," one of the border officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He said border guards stopped Hamas deputy Mushir al-Masri from crossing, telling him that he had to "wait for coordination" to take the money across the border. The border ultimately closed without approval being granted.
A Palestinian official in Egypt confirmed Masri had been delayed while trying to take cash across the border, which is jointly operated by Egypt and the Palestinians, and overseen by European monitors. He said the money was aid for the Palestinian people.
Palestinians technically control the Gaza side of the crossing but its operations can be blocked by Israel, which has shut the border frequently this year over what it says are threats by Palestinian militants.
Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Sunday pledged to bypass a boycott imposed by the United States and its partners in the Quartet of Middle East mediators, and intended to pressure Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and accept existing peace deals.
"There will be no compliance with any restriction imposed ... The Arab banks have to transfer money (to the Palestinians)," Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa told a news conference after that meeting.
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