Senior Hamas Officials Deny Failure in Talks With Egyptian Intelligence

Hamas seeks easing of blockade on Gaza Strip and opening Rafah border crossing; Meshal: PA-Israel security coordination contravenes Palestinian interests.

AP

Senior Hamas officials in Cairo denied reports on Tuesday that talks had failed between its delegation and Egyptian intelligence officials in the Arab capital. They remarked that both sides are maintaining full discretion about the talks’ contents.

Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper quoted on Tuesday Egyptian security sources, which said that the talks had failed after intelligence officials had presented proof of Hamas involvement in training and supporting the cell that assassinated the Egyptian prosecutor general. Senior Hamas officials have denied involvement in the car bombing that killed the prosecutor general, Hisham Barakat, last June. Egypt’s accusations against Hamas are just one of many issues on the agenda. Hamas is seeking first and foremost a path to ease the siege of the Gaza Strip and to open the Rafah border crossing.

According to an Egyptian source, who is close to the Egyptian security establishment, the meetings between the Hamas delegation and intelligence heads would continue Tuesday. The delegation is supposed to leave afterward for a round of meetings, including in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where senior officials from the Hamas political office, headed by Khaled Mashaal, reside. According to Egyptian and Palestinian sources familiar with the situation, there may also be a meeting in Tehran or with Iranian officials.

Hamas officials are really counting on Saudi support. Officials in the organization have been cautious over the past two weeks regarding the decision of the Gulf States forum to designate Hezbollah as a terror organization. Hamas, which sees itself as a resistance organization, and whose leaders have spoken often of adopting the Hezbollah model to combat Israel, straightened ranks with the Saudis regarding Hezbollah. According to Palestinian estimates, this position paved the way for the delegation to leave Gaza for Cairo and their subsequent meetings in the Egyptian capital.

The Palestinian Health Ministry on Monday reported that a member of the Hamas tunnel unit was killed when a tunnel in eastern Gaza collapsed. He was identified as Abdel Salaam al-Batniji, 36. Hamas announced that the militant was fulfilling “an operational task” during the collapse, but did not provide further details of the incident.

Meshal said that the organization is not seeking a confrontation with Israel, but Israel is continuing its siege policy and its aggressiveness. Meshal added in an interview with the France24 channel that security coordination with Israel contravenes Palestinian national interests and constitutes a free service for the Israeli occupation.

Regarding Palestinian reconciliation, Meshal said that there are contacts between Hamas and Fatah, but no date has been set for a meeting between himself and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Meshal further stated that Hamas has not received any assistance from Iran since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, but that Hamas is maintaining low-level contacts with Tehran.