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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Border standoff resolved

It seems that the last update to my previous post was way premature, but after six hours, the standoff at the Gaza - Egypt border has been resolved and 'moderate' 'Palestinian Prime Minister' Ismail Haniyeh has returned to Gaza - without the cash.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh returned to the Gaza Strip late Thursday night after a bloody standoff between Hamas gunmen and rival Fatah forces, which followed the closure of the Rafah Crossing at the orders of Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who sought to prevent Haniyeh from bringing into the Strip 35 million US dollars he had in his possession.

An agreement had earlier been reached between Israeli and Egyptian security officials whereby the cash would remain in the border town of El Arish and then be deposited in an Arab League bank account in Cairo.

The Egyptians guaranteed that the money, seemingly collected by Haniyeh during his recent visits to Iran and Sudan, would not be transferred into the Gaza Strip.

Haniyeh entered Gaza after the fighting subsided, clearing the way for European monitors to open the border crossing.

"I'm standing next to him," said Wael Dahab, spokesman for the pro-Fatah presidential guard.

Eighteen people were wounded during the clashes, which followed the closure of the Rafah Crossing hours after Hamas gunmen tried to seize control of it.

Witnesses said Hamas gunmen were firing at the Egyptian side of the border, drawing return fire from the Egyptians and presidential guards from Fatah.

During the battle, masked gunmen in three cars and a bulldozer stormed the terminal, witnesses said. The gunmen went on a rampage inside the building, destroying computers and furniture inside and plunging the area into darkness, the witnesses said.

Under an international agreement, the border can only operate in the presence of European Union monitors. The monitors fled the area after Hamas gunmen seized control of the terminal.


Under an agreement signed a year ago, Israel does not have the right to close the border, but it has used the threat of military action to force the border to close repeatedly in recent months.

Israeli security officials stressed that they had no problems with Haniyeh personally but with the money that they claimed would be used to fund terror.

Hamas gunmen angry that Haniyeh was prevented from returning to Gaza, burst into the border terminal, sparking a gun battle with guards.

The Hamas members waiting outside the terminal grew impatient for Haniyeh's return and broke into the compound, shooting in the air. The Palestinian Presidential Guard, responsible for security at the terminal, began firing at them.

Travelers in the terminal lobby ran for cover, some carrying their luggage. Women and children hid behind walls and nearby taxis outside. Three Palestinians were killed in the firefight, channel two reported.

The Hamas members, chanting "God is Great, let's liberate this place," tried to take over the arrival hall and the border guards escorted European monitors to safety.

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

Later as Haniyeh headed to the border in an attempt to cross a second time, two loud explosions were heard on the Gaza side and security officials said that Hamas operatives had blown a hole in the border fence about one kilometer from the terminal.

Maria Telleria, spokeswoman for the monitors, said all 16 European monitors were safely evacuated during the gunfight.
Now, here's what's not being said here, which I heard on the simulcast of the TV nightly news tonight:

1. Everyone other than Hamas had an interest in making sure that Israel knew about this and cracked down on it. Fatah didn't want Hamas bringing in money because it's being used to finance Hamas' campaign against Fatah. Egypt doesn't want Hamas bringing in money, because it's afraid of a radicalized, Islamized Gaza Strip on its doorstep. The Europeans don't want Hamas to have more money because then they cannot control the border. All of these elements together made sure that Israel found out that Haniyeh was about to smuggle in $35 million in cash.

2. Most of the delay in reopening the border was because of the European monitors. When they shooting started, they run to the Kerem Shalom crossing and crossed into Israel. They refused to return to the border area until all the 'Palestinians' had been cleared out of the area.

YNet is reporting that the money was left in El-Arish, but is to be transferred to the 'Palestinian Authority' and not to the Arab League. But Haaretz has it the same way as the Jerusalem Post article I cited above.

Hey - I know - let's give these 'people' a state reichlet. That will solve all of the world's problems.


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