Ali Waked
May 24, 2010 - 12:00am,7340,L-3893295,00.html

Hamas' Interior Minister Fathi Hamad on Monday revealed that security forces recently arrested a senior Egyptian officer that infiltrated into the Gaza Strip in order to collect information on its residents and the Hamas government.

Hamad added that the officer "was intending to perform other tasks," on which he did not elaborate.

According to Hamad's statement, which was published on a website affiliated with Hamas, the officer was returned to Egypt. Hamad slammed its southern neighbor for the move, and called to establish "a joint security committee for cooperation and coordination" between Hamas and Egypt. "This is the solution, not dispatching officers that cross the security fence," he added.

Hamad was enraged by the fact that Egypt continued to arrest Palestinian activists from the Strip and torture them although they "did not commit any offense against Egypt or its security.

"I call on Egypt to immediately release them. What Egypt does is in contradiction with the principles of Islam and good neighborliness. Egypt must probe the occupation and how it manages to infiltrate the Palestinian and Egyptian territories, and stand on the Palestinian's side."

Months of tensions
The tension between Hamas and Egypt has been escalating in recent months, and is rooted in Egypt's consistent refusal to open Rafah crossing, its construction of the steel fence on the Gaza border, and its war against smuggling tunnels.

Last month, Hamas accused Egypt of spraying poisonous gas into one of the tunnels, which led to the death of four Palestinians.

Developments in the past two weeks only added fuel to the fire. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Egypt of torturing 30 Palestinian detainees in its custody, using electric shocks and prolonged hangings.

Later, it was reported that Hamas heads had learned from Palestinians who were held in Egyptian prisons that the spokesman's brother, Yusef Abu Zuhri, was killed from an electric shock in the Egyptian security forces' facilities in Cairo, and did not die in hospital of low blood pressure as the Egyptians claimed.

In a separate incident, a Palestinian fisherman was killed when his boat collided with an Egyptian naval vessel in Egypt's territorial waters. Gazans said the Egyptian sailors beat the fisherman to death with clubs and pipes.

The Hamas government demanded the Egyptian interior minister probe the incident, and asked the Egyptian Union of Fishermen's Cooperatives to condemn the act.

Shortly after the incident, another tense event took place when Hamas security forces announced they had defused a bomb near the Egyptian embassy in Gaza City, which has been inactive since Hamas took over the Strip in 2007.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017