Hamas negotiators double as bagmen

February 6, 2009

CAIRO – Hamas negotiators left Egypt without a long-term cease-fire with Israel yesterday but perhaps that wasn’t why they came anyway. The negotiators turned out to be bag men carrying millions of dollars in cash stuffed into their suitcases, according to a NY Post report.

The delegation members were stopped at the Gaza border and initially refused to be searched by Egyptian authorities at the Rafah border crossing.

When the group eventually relented, authorities found $9.5 – 11.5 million (depending on which report you believe).

The money was not allowed to cross with the group but was not taken away either. One of the Hamas members, senior negotiator Ayman Taha was allowed to deposit the money in an account in Egypt. He later told al Jazeera TV the bills represented “donations to the Palestinian people,” and he insisted Hamas will be able to get the cash back.

With Israel is demanding a halt to Hamas smuggling into Gaza, the incident is a sensitive one for Egypt.
Yesterday, the Israeli navy intercepted a ship carrying humanitarian supplies from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip and towed the vessel into port, foiling a new attempt by international activists to break Israel’s blockade of the Palestinian territory. It was the first time Israeli forces seized an aid ship, after the navy let some boats in and turned others around.


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