Egypt to allow deputy Hamas leader to cross into Gaza

World Bulletin / News Desk

Egyptian authorities have agreed to allow Hamas deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouq to cross into the Gaza Strip to attend reconciliation talks with rival Fatah.

"Abu Marzouq will come from Egypt on Monday morning through the Rafah border crossing," Youssef Rizka, a political advisor to Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, told Anadolu Agency late Sunday.

A delegation from Fatah, the movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, is due in Gaza Monday to discuss reconciliation with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip since 2007.

Abu Marzouq moved to Egypt from Syria after the 2011 popular uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Relations between Hamas and Egyptian authorities have deteriorated since last July, when the Egyptian army ousted elected president Mohamed Morsi and cracked down on his Muslim Brotherhood group.

Egyptian authorities accuse Hamas, an ideological offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, of interfering in Egypt's domestic affairs and carrying out attacks inside the country – charges Hamas emphatically denies.

An Egyptian court has recently banned the activities of Hamas in Egypt and ordered the confiscation of its offices.

But Rizka said the new round of reconciliation talks between Palestinian factions will still be sponsored by Egypt.

He added that Haniyeh had called Egyptian intelligence officials last week to update them on the latest efforts to heal Palestinian rifts.

Relations between Hamas and Fatah have been tense since the Islamist movement seized full control of the Gaza Strip following deadly clashes with Fatah in 2007, a few months after Hamas had defeated Fatah in the parliamentary election.

Haniyeh welcomes solidarity convoy in Gaza

Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has welcomed members of the "Miles of Smiles 26" convoy who arrived to the Gaza Strip earlier Sunday to express solidarity with the residential of the besieged coastal enclave.

"We thank those who make efforts to break the [Israeli] blockade imposed on Gaza for the 8th consecutive year," Haniyeh said, according to the Gaza government official news agency Al-Ray.

The 35 members of the convoy arrived in Gaza earlier today through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

They come from countries such as the United Kingdom, Algeria and Libya.

"The members of the convoy are here to offer humanitarian support for the people of Gaza," Essam Youssef, the leader of the convoy, told a press conference in Gaza.

He said the Egyptian side had promised to open the Rafah border crossing on a regular weekly basis.

Palestinians complain that frequent border closures by Egypt have contributed to the Gaza Strip's worsening economic and humanitarian conditions caused by an eight-year-long Israeli embargo.

The Rafah border crossing – which links the strip to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula – represents Gaza's only window to the outside world.

Gaza's Interior Ministry announced Friday that the Rafah border crossing has only been open for 12 days so far this year.

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