Jerusalem : In the wake of Egypt’s decision to allow at least 80 Hamas members to enter the Gaza Strip on Sunday, Israel sent a message to Egypt, claiming that some Hamas members had recently received military training in Iran and Syria, mass circulation the Ha’aretz reported on Tuesday.
The group of Hamas members, including senior members of its political leadership as well as well-trained militants, entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing on Sunday morning.
Ha’aretz quoted Israeli security sources as saying that they were concerned that these “experts” were allowed into the Strip because of their ability to bolster Hamas in specialties such as rocket and mortar attacks, sophisticated explosive devices, sniping, and commando raids.
Sources in the Israeli defense establishment said the entry of “extremists” into Gaza was just another chapter in Hamas’ growing strength. They charged Egypt of not doing enough to block them.
Rafah border crossing, located on the Egypt-Gaza border, is the only gateway to the outside world bypassing Israel.
After Hamas’ takeover in the Gaza Strip in mid-June, the work of EU observers controlling Rafah crossing has stopped, which ended Israel’s influence on the activities at the crossing.
In the past four months, Egypt had prevented this group of Hamas members from entering the Gaza Strip, largely due to Israeli pressure, Ha’aretz said.
However, Egypt finally allowed the crossing of these Hamas members following a deal which had been reached between the Egyptian intelligence authorities and Hamas, the independent Palestinian news agency Maan reported on Monday.
According to Maan, an Al-Qaida militant who had fled to the Gaza Strip from Asyut, a city in southern Egypt, had been handed over to the Egyptian authorities by Hamas. In return, Egypt allowed the entry of dozens of Hamas members into the Strip.
According to other sources in the Strip, during the weekend Egyptian intelligence official Ahmed Abd al-Halk met with representatives of Hamas’ military wing and of the Popular Resistance Committees, which has close relations with Hamas.
Following the meeting, Egypt agreed to allow as many as 87 Palestinians to cross into the Strip, including members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
But a Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said that many of those who crossed into the Strip on Sunday were “ordinary citizens.”