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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Israeli government favors Hamas plan

Israel favors the Hamas proposal of broader economic ties with Egypt for Gaza. It sounds good, right? Apparently, somone in Israel doesn't understand that the situation Hamas wants to create would effectively turn Gaza into an independent state with an open border that can import heavy armaments and material for manufacturing arms, building fortifications etc.
Ami Isseroff

J'lem said to favor Hamas bid to cut Israel-Gaza ties
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies Last update - 23:57

A source in Jerusalem said Saturday Israel is in favor of Hamas' declared intention of cutting economic ties between Gaza and Israel.

"This is excellent," the source said. "It is what Israel has desired for years, and it is only good for us."

The political source added: "If Egypt agrees to the process, Israel will give it its blessing."

Hamas' deposed prime minister Ismail Haniyeh was quoted Saturday as saying that Gaza must forge stronger economic ties with Egypt as a way of disconnecting from Israel.

Haniyeh told the pro-Hamas daily Palestine in an interview published Saturday that Hamas would like to see Gaza's economy cut its ties with Israel, and instead receive fuel and electricity from Egypt.

"We have said from the days of our election campaign that we want to move toward economic disengagement from the Israeli occupation," Haniyeh said.

Egypt has a greater ability to meet the needs of Gaza, he added.

The Hamas leader was also quoted as telling the daily on Friday as saying he would not allow the border to be resealed. "The Palestinian people have many options."

Meanwhile, senior Hamas hardliner Mahmoud Zahar said Saturday that Egypt has decided to close its breached border with Gaza on Sunday, and Hamas will not stand in the way.

Zahar spoke upon his return to Gaza after holding talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo.

At the same time, Zahar added, Egypt has agreed to coordinate with Hamas on some border issues and to enable thousands of Palestinians stuck in Egypt to head to third countries for which they have visas or residency permits.

These travelers are currently waiting in the Egyptian border town of El Arish for Egyptian approval to continue their travels.

Egyptian officials were not available for comment on the Hamas claims. It was unclear whether the border would be sealed hermetically, as it was before Hamas blew up sections of the border wall on January 23, ending a seven-month blockade by Israel and Egypt. It also wasn't clear to what extent, if at all, Hamas' demand to be given a say in running the Egypt-Gaza border was being considered.

In an interview with Associated Press Television News, Zahar suggested the Egyptians planned to reopen the border after talks with European officials arriving in the region.

"Tomorrow they [the Egyptians] are going to start dialogue with the European people in order to make an end for our sanctions and to allow opening of the gates freely and without preconditions," he said.

The EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, was expected to arrive in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials later Saturday. The international Mideast envoy, Tony Blair, was also planning a trip to the region in coming days to address the border standoff.

Zahar was greeted Saturday by supporters at the border. Since the breach, hundreds of thousands of Gazans have flooded Egypt's border area and Hamas has thwarted repeated attempts by Egypt to reseal the border.

The Hamas leader said Egyptian officials told him they would restore order at the border. "Egypt's message was very clear, that Sunday should be the day to put an end to this scene," Zahar told the Arab satellite TV station Al Jazeera.

At the border, Zahar said gunmen would not be allowed to bring weapons close to the border, or use bad words or violence towards Egyptian police.

Zahar, who is widely seen as the mastermind of Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza in June, said Hamas would cooperate with Egypt in its efforts.

"We will work to close the border between us and Egypt," Zahar said. "We will restore control over this border, in cooperation with Egypt and gradually."

At the closed Rafah border crossing, around 600 women loyal to Hamas protested to demand its opening. The women, many wearing black robes and headcoverings, held up green Hamas flags and chanted on the Palestinian side of the crossing.

Some of the women said the gaps in the border - created by Hamas militants had not resolved pressing issues created by Gaza's closure to the outside world. The sick still need to travel, we need cement, said Naima Diab, a 55-year-old Hamas loyalist wearing a black robe with a white headscarf, sitting on a nearby rock.

On Friday, Hamas militants hauled away metal spikes that Egyptian soldiers had placed at sections of the Gaza-Egypt border in an attempt to stop the influx of Gazans.

Hamas' demand for a role in running the border with Egypt was rejected this week by Egypt and Hamas' rival, Fatah's moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.


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