Hamas Negotiators Stopped With Stuffed $15m Suitcases
February 6, 2009 4 Comments
Hamas negotiators left Egypt without a long-term ceasefire with Israel on Thursday – but not before some members of the militant group’s delegation were stopped at the Gaza border with millions in cash.
The delegation walked away from the ceasefire talks because of disagreements over the blockage on Gaza, and over border security, but talks will continue at a later date. Egypt had set Thursday as an expected date for reaching a long-term truce deal. An Egyptian security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said the group initially refused to be searched by Egyptian authorities at the Rafah border crossing. When the group relented, authorities found $US7 million ($10.9 million) and 2 million euro ($4 million) in cash in their suitcases.
Another security official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said $US9 million and 2 million euro were found. The discrepancy could not be immediately explained. The money was later deposited in an account in Egypt by a Hamas member who stayed behind while the rest of the delegation was allowed to return to Gaza, the second security official said. It was not clear what would happen to the money. There was no immediate comment from Hamas. The incident is a sensitive one for Egypt, particularly now when Israel is demanding a halt to Hamas smuggling into Gaza as part of truce negotiations. Israel complains that Hamas – which gets funding from Iran, Syria and donations from supporters – smuggles money and weapons through Egypt into the Gaza Strip. Mostly the smuggling is done through tunnels at the border. But in the past – before border crossings were tightly sealed in 2007 – Hamas officials had brought in cash as well.
In 2006, a senior Hamas official bragged about successfully carrying $42 million across the border. Arab banks have generally refused to transfer money to Gaza for fear of running afoul of the United States, which considers Hamas a terrorist organisation. The money has helped keep afloat the Hamas government, which is generally shunned by foreign governments. Israel and Hamas do not talk directly, so Egypt has been mediating talks on solidifying the shaky ceasefire that went into effect on January 18, ending Israel’s three-week offensive on Gaza.
- Hamas Grabs UN Supplies At Gunpoint
- Israel Prepares Itself For Gaza War Crimes Charges
- Israeli Soliders Shot Children Says Gaza Family