Zoals verwacht laat Egypte de teruggekeerde Palestijnen uit Mekka via Rafah teruggaan naar de Gazastrook, in schending van de afspraken met Israël om ze via Kerem Shalom te laten terugkeren, zodat ze door de Israëlische controles moesten.
Israël vreest dat enkele Hamas activisten onder de pelgrims grote sommen geld voor deze organisatie de grens over zullen smokelen, een niet ongegronde vrees gezien eerdere ervaringen. Egypte hecht blijkbaar meer belang aan haar relatie met Hamas dan die met Israël, ondanks het feit dat beide landen lang geleden officieel vrede sloten. De vraag is waarom en hoe Israël Egypte beter duidelijk kan maken dat een goede verstandhouding met Israël ook in Egyptes belang is.
Verder commentaar op IMO Blog: Israel, Egypte en de lieve vrede
Egypt allows pilgrims to return to Gaza
By Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid 3 January 2008
Hundreds of Palestinians who were stranded in El Arish in Sinai and on a boat anchored in the Red Sea began returning to the Gaza Strip yesterday, via the Rafah crossing as demanded by Hamas and in contradiction of the understanding between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
About 2,000 Palestinians were detained after returning from the hajj in Saudi Arabia last week, after Israel demanded that they be subjected to security checks and entered Gaza via the Israeli border only. Israeli officials feared that among the pilgrims were important Hamas activists who left Gaza with the pilgrims and brought back large sums of money for Hamas.
About half of the returning pilgrims stayed on the ferry from Saudi Arabia, while half waited in tents in the El Arish area. Some pilgrims staged protests in El Arish against the Egyptian authorities.
Jerusalem officials noted yesterday that "the crossing of pilgrims and Hamas activists between the Gaza Strip and Sinai is a violation of all the agreements between Israel and Egypt."
Egypt briefed Israel on its intention to allow the pilgrims to cross. "We didn't like it that they left and we didn't like the way they returned," a military source said. "We had an expectation that it would it happen and unfortunately it did."
Hamas Gaza leader and deposed Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh blessed the pilgrims who returned from Sinai without "being injured or extorted by the Israeli occupation" and without crossing the border under Israeli supervision. Haniyeh thanked Egypt, Mubarak and Saudi Arabian King Abdullah and his government for their aid and efforts to solve the crisis.
Haniyeh also called for a "new page" in intra-Palestinian relations and urged Palestinians "to stand together in the West Bank, Gaza and outside of Palestine in the face of the threats to Palestinian interests."
He addressed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah movement and all Palestinian factions, saying that he supports dialogue "to solve the disagreements and end the separation [between the West Bank and Gaza]."
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday criticized Egypt for its inability to halt weapons smuggling from Sinai to the Gaza Strip through the tunnels on the Philadelphi Route. Meeting with a U.S. Congressional delegation who had earlier visited Egypt, he told them that Israel expects Egypt to do more to stop the smuggling.