Thursday, January 3, 2008

Egypt Helps Terrorists Return to Gaza

Comments about the excerpts from an Associated Press story are included in brackets.

Palestinian Pilgrims Return to Gaza

By IBRAHIM BARZAK, The Associated Press

RAFAH, Gaza Strip - Egypt allowed more than 2,000 Palestinian pilgrims to enter the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, drawing a fierce rebuke from Israel, which had tried to prevent top members of the militant Hamas from returning home.

Egypt's decision to open its border deepened a crisis in relations with Israel, which has accused Cairo of not doing enough to stop Palestinian smuggling of weapons and contraband into Gaza through tunnels under the border.

[Far from just not doing enough, the Egyptians have been actively helping transport illegal weapons into Gaza.]

Israeli security officials said they expressed their outrage to Egypt, accusing the country of reneging on recent pledges to keep the border sealed.

The Muslim pilgrims left Gaza last month to make a hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. They became trapped in Egypt on Saturday when the Egyptian government - apparently at Israel's request - said they would have to cross through Israel, instead of going directly into Gaza through Rafah.

[They weren't trapped; they just decided they didn't want to go through Israel.]

At least 10 senior Hamas members, including former deputy Parliament speaker Ahmed Bahar, were among the returning pilgrims. Israel was concerned they were carrying large sums of money for Gaza's Hamas rulers, who have been under an Israeli blockade since seizing the territory from their Fatah rivals in June. Israel considers the Islamic militant Hamas, which is committed to its destruction, a terrorist group.

[There is good reason why Israel, and the United States, and all intelligent observers consider Hamas a terrorist group: Hamas is a terrorist group.]

The pilgrims refused to enter Israel and staged violent protests, setting fire to the desert camps where they were held.

The standoff was sensitive for the Egyptian government, which is deeply worried about being seen in the Arab world as worsening Palestinians' hardship in Gaza. Israel has sealed Gaza since the Hamas takeover, deepening economic hardship in an already impoverished area.

[This very article demonstrates Israel has not "sealed" Gaza. While Israel has done what it can to prevent weapons and terrorists from passing between Gaza and Israel, it does not control the border between Gaza and Egypt.]

An Egyptian official said Israel had been informed of Egypt's decision.

But Israeli defense officials said Israel had not approved their return, and that Egypt's decision contradicted understandings reached in a meeting last week between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

[This is not surprising.]

Last week, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Egypt was doing a "terrible" job policing the border, and Israel sent a videotape to Washington of what it said was Egyptian soldiers allowing Palestinian arms smuggling.

Egypt accused Israel of trying to persuade the U.S. government to cut aid to Egypt. On Monday, Egypt's foreign minister said his government would "retaliate" diplomatically.

[The real pilgrims could have crossed back into Gaza through Israel. The only reason they insisted on going through Egypt's crossing was because Israel would have searched for the illegal weapons they were bringing back in and would have arrested the terrorists, including those who had used the hajj as cover to get additional training in Iran.]

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