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Israel blocks Palestinian PM Haniyeh's return to Gaza
by BBC (reposted)
Thursday Dec 14th, 2006 9:23 AM
Israeli authorities have ordered the closure of a border point with Egypt to prevent the return of the Palestinian PM, Ismail Haniya of Hamas.
Mr Haniya is said to be carrying tens of millions of dollars in donations from Iran.

Hamas militants reacted angrily to the closure, storming the border point and taking it over from Palestinian guards.

Hamas sources now say Mr Haniya is to return without the money and others in his delegation will bring it in later.

Since the election of Hamas earlier this year, there has been a Western-led boycott of the government.

Hamas has been unable to pay the salaries of tens of thousands of its workers and has partially circumvented the boycott by officials carrying in millions of dollars.

Factional tension

Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz had ordered EU monitors to close the Rafah crossing, Israeli sources said.

Mr Haniya was due to return to Gaza on Thursday after cutting short his first trip abroad as PM to deal with mounting tensions between Hamas and rival faction Fatah.

Inter-faction tensions have increased since the killing of three sons of a pro-Fatah security chief on Monday.

Israel said Mr Haniya would only be allowed to cross into Gaza if he left the money - which is reported to total more than $30m (£15.3m) - on the Egyptian side.

Israel says that money, in particular from Iran, goes directly to the funding of "terrorist" operations against Israel.

Palestinian and Egyptian officials say Mr Haniya's convoy is making a second attempt to cross and Israel has agreed to allow Mr Haniya to return, without the money. However, this has not been confirmed by Israel.


The closure sparked gunfire at the crossing point.

The Palestinian presidential guard, responsible for security there, began firing at Hamas militants, according to an Associated Press news agency journalist at the terminal.

Militants chanting "God is great" took over the hall.

Travellers took cover and a leading Hamas official tried to get the militants to disperse, the agency said.

"There is chaos here," said Presidential Guard spokesman Wael Dahab.

There were also unconfirmed reports of two loud explosions that had blown a hole in the Gaza-Egypt border.

Maria Telleria, spokeswoman for the EU monitoring mission, said all 16 monitors had been safely evacuated and the border would remain closed Thursday.

"Now it is dark, the monitors will not be coming back," she told the Associated Press news agency.

"But I don't know what is going to happen tomorrow."

The border is operated by European observers who have to travel from Israel to get to it.
by Al Jazeera (reposted)
Thursday Dec 14th, 2006 9:24 AM
Israel has closed the Rafah border crossing with Egypt preventing the Palestinian prime minister returning to the Gaza Strip.

Hamas supporters entered the terminal after hearing of the closure, sparking a gunbattle with the guards.

Israeli security sources said Amir Peretz, the defence minister, had ordered the closure.

Another Israeli source told Reuters news agency that Ismael Haniya was suspected of trying to bring in millions of dollars donated by Iran.

He had been on a two-week tour of the Middle East to raise money for the Hamas government.

The European Border Assistance Mission, which monitors the crossing point, said it was unclear when it would reopen.

"It is closed. The operation has stopped for a while until the situation with Haniya is clarified," a spokeswoman said.

by Haaretz (reposted)
Thursday Dec 14th, 2006 9:25 AM
Israel agreed Thursday evening to allow Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to cross from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, but without the $35 million in cash he had brought from a tour of Muslim states.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz had earlier instructed the Israel Defense Forces to stop Palestinians entering Gaza via the Rafah border crossing, in order to prevent Haniyeh from crossing with the money.

Israel Radio reported that the money would be left in Egypt, and on Friday transferred to the bank account of the Arab League.

Israeli security sources said that the decision to close the border was made to stop the cash transfer, not to prevent Haniyeh's return.

The head of Egypt's intelligence service, Omar Suleiman, had contacted Israeli officials in order to find a solution that would allow Haniyeh to return to the Strip.

Meanwhile, Hamas militants angered by the ban on Haniyeh, burst into the Rafah border terminal Thursday, sparking a gunbattle with guards before taking control of the crossing

Travelers at the terminal dove for cover and a top Hamas official furiously tried to persuade the militants to disperse. Following the gunbattle, European monitors said the border would not be reopened Thursday, though it appeared that Haniyeh might still be able to cross from Egypt.

In the chaos of the attack, two loud explosions rocked the border area, and security officials said militants had blown a hole in the border fence about one kilometer from the terminal.

Palestinian official Hani Jabour, a coordinator at the Rafah crossing, said Israeli authorities closed the border after Haniyeh told Egyptian authorities he was carrying the money.

Haniyeh's premature return to Gaza midway through his first tour abroad since becoming prime minister came in the wake of rising tensions between Hamas and Fatah.

The economic boycott on the Palestinian Authority, imposed by the international community on Hamas since its victory in the parliamentary elections last January, has forced the group to raise funds overseas in order to cover its ongoing expenditure.

by BBC (reposted)
Thursday Dec 14th, 2006 9:37 AM
srael will allow Palestinian PM Ismail Haniya to return to Gaza from Egypt but without tens of millions in donations, Egyptian and Israeli sources say.

The money would be left on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing, they said.