Egypt-Hamas rapprochement said to be helped by AlQaeda intelligence
Al-Quds al-Arabi devotes its lead story this morning to an explanation why the Egyptian government has abandoned its original aim of eliminating Hamas control of the Gaza Strip, and is now instead preparing to engage in constructive negotiations with the movement. Journalists Walid Awwad and Ashraf al-Hawwar write:
The Al-Quds piece continues:
Palestinian sources said the Egyptian authorities have resumed contacts with Hamas, in spite of their anger over the movement's seizure of control of the Gaza Strip. Al-Quds al-Arabi has learned that the backing-down that has occurred in Egypt's attitude--which had been to isolate Hamas and follow the American line in putting an end to their military presence in the Gaza Strip--came about as a result of Egypt's acquisition of information confirming that its [Hamas'] replacement would be the AlQaeda organization.(Recall that the article in the Egyptian paper Al-Mesryoun last week about Dahlan-linked intelligence information passed on by Hamas to Egypt included a couple of references to the Sinai/tourism angle, in fact this appeared to be the main AlQaeda-linked topic of concern).
Palestinian sources who are following the talks between Egypt and the Palestinian side [meaning Hamas] said that an official with the Hamas movement told the Egyptian authorities that the military wing of Hamas could become more extreme, and could change to an attitude [even] more implacable than that of the AlQaeda organization. Moreover, [the Egyptians were told] that AlQaeda itself has already been able to make substantial inroads in the Gaza Strip, and has been able to set up cells involving young people.
The Egyptian authorities were [already] worried about increased AlQaeda activity in Sinai, [particularly insofar as the activity represents] a threat to tourism and investment projects in Sharm el-Sheikh and Taha. In the last few weeks, they have come upon quantities of weapons and explosives in Sinai that came from the Gaza Strip.
The Al-Quds piece continues:
It is said that the Hamas movement apologized officially to the Egyptian authorities for their having stormed the headquarters of the Egyptian security mission in Gaza and the arrest of some Fatah leaders who had taken refuge there, and immediately undertook to release them, and this has resulted in an Egyptian decision to return its embassy to Gaza City, after it had moved it to Ramallah.(The rest of this article is devoted to Fatah plans for tarring and feathering of Hani al-Hassan, a senior Fatah person with a long and honorable history in the resistance, including expelling him from the movement, along with an official Fatah "trial", as punishment for what he said on AlJazeera TV about the legitimacy of the Hamas reponse to the Dahlan-Dayton threat. Abbas is being rather defensive about this. The journalists say this is so important to Abbas that he "has decided to call a special meeting of the Fatah central committee on an urgent basis to take the necessary steps to protect the program of the movement [Fatah] and of its stance, in the light of this distortion which has been spewed out by Hani al-Hassan").