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Haniyeh: Gaza doesn't threaten Egypt

Jan. 7, 2010 10:45 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 9, 2010 9:02 A.M.)
Gaza – Ma'an – De facto Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Thursday called for Egypt to hold an urgent, direct meeting with the Hamas-led government to discuss bilateral relations and Cairo's policy toward Gaza's besieged people.

"Gaza does not threaten Egypt's security. It is that which defends Arab, Islamic, and Egyptian security," he said, speaking a a ceremony organized by his government to receive the Viva Palestina convoy, which arrived on Wednesday.

"Construction of the steel wall along the [Rafah] border, along with the developments accompanying Viva Palestina, necessitates holding a direct meeting with the Egyptians," the Gaza-based prime minister added. "The Egyptian people, even senior officials, support Palestine and lifting the siege imposed on Gaza."

Haniyeh praised members of the convoy and, as he had earlier, reiterated his condemnation for the "attack" on the Viva Palestina group at the northern Sinai city of Al-Arish on Wednesday, expressing hope that the injured would recover swiftly. He also applauded the stance against the blockade taken by Turkey, one of three regional states that has relations with Israel, describing its current government as "the new Ottomans."

Medical aid and 518 activists entered Gaza on Wednesday night after protests against Cairo's refusal to admit 400 activists lead to clashes in the divided border town of Rafah. An Egyptian soldier was shot dead during the clashes, apparently by friendly fire, which Hamas vowed to investigate.

Before the soldier's death, more than 50 people were injured when Egyptian riot police threw stones and trained water cannons on more than 500 members of the aid convoy, including British MP George Galloway. The protest reportedly began when Egypt demanded some of the vehicles in the convoy enter Gaza through an Israeli-controlled crossing point.

The convoy's 220 trucks and ambulances, filled with tons of medical aid, will be handed over to Gaza hospitals. Convoy spokeswoman Alice Howard said the convoy members were given 48-hour permits for Gaza.

Israel sealed its borders with Gaza following Hamas' June 2007 takeover of the territory, causing shortages of vital goods, including fuel and all but 36 types of food items. Gaza’s 1.5 million residents are also largely banned from traveling. Egypt has come under fire recently for playing a role in the blockade, including building a steel wall along its border to cut off smuggling tunnels dug to import goods made scarce by the siege.
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