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Gaza security forces detain top Egyptian officer

May 24, 2010 10:06 A.M. (Updated: May 25, 2010 5:30 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma'an – The Gaza government's security forces detained and interrogated a high-ranking Egyptian officer who entered the Gaza Strip in secret "to gather information on the Palestinian people, government, and other things," the de facto Interior Minister said Monday.

Fathi Hammad told the Hamas-affiliated newspaper Palestine that the Egyptian officer was returned and called on Egyptian authorities to form a joint security committee for coordination with the Gaza government "instead of sending officers to secretly violate Palestinian security."

"Egypt is better off investigating how Israeli agents infiltrated Palestinian and Egyptian territories rather than sending officers in secret to collect information on the Palestinian resistance in Gaza, and torturing Palestinian [detainees in Egypt] into giving up information," Hammad told the newspaper.

Significantly, however, the Hamas official confirmed that relations between Egypt and the Gaza government had been reduced to "unofficial" after the decline in political cooperation, after a week of media speculation on Egypt severing ties with Hamas.

The move could have repercussions on ratifying a unity deal between rival faction Fatah, with Egypt sponsoring and drawing up the document.

Egypt, the Hamas official said, detained several Palestinians and "tortured them for no foul or violation of Egypt's security," calling for their unconditional release, describing Egypt's treatment of prisoners as "irreverent of Islamic teachings, pan-Arabism, and neighborhood traditions."

Last Monday, Hamas denied reports that Egypt has frozen all contact with the Islamist movement, a party spokesman said.

Sami Abu Zuhri told Ma'an that the issue was "mere media speculation," but added that relations between Gaza and Cairo are tense following an escalation in security measures by Egyptian forces along the Gaza border.

The Hamas official accused Egyptian security of killing "at least" five Gaza residents in smuggling tunnels, as well as fishermen, adding "dozens were also detained and tortured."

Concerning progress on a Hamas-Fatah unity deal, Abu Zuhri said no new suggestion have emerged save for "modest communication" between certain Fatah and Hamas leaders.

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