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High-ranking Hamas leaders seeking support in Cairo

Sept. 19, 2012 8:48 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 20, 2012 4:34 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Since Monday, Hamas leaders Khalid Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh have been in Cairo with senior party officials from Gaza and the diaspora for a series of meetings with Egyptian officials.

According to the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, the delegation discussed security cooperation with Egypt, ending the siege on Gaza and the establishment of a free trade zone at the Rafah crossing.

Mashaal and his delegation met Tuesday with the director of Egyptian general intelligence Raafat Shahatah at his Cairo office. They discussed political developments in the Palestinian territory in general, with a special focus on reconciliation between Hamas and its rival Fatah.

Haniyeh, according to Hamas sources, met with Shahatah and requested that Egypt put pressure on Israel to adhere with the terms of the Shalit prisoner swap deal which Egypt brokered between Hamas and Israel.

Gaza-based political analyst Mustafa al-Sawwaf highlighted that Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi had promised his country would treat all Palestinian parties on an equal footing. Al-Sawwaf told Ma'an he expects the current visit by Hamas’ leaders to Cairo to help the Hamas government both politically and economically.

Meanwhile, Akram Atallah, a political analyst based in Bethlehem, says the visit to Cairo reflects two aims. The first objective, he said, was maintaining Hamas’ foreign relations and that was reflected by Haniyeh's meeting with Egyptian premier Hisham Qandil.

Such a meeting, according to Atallah, bestowed legitimacy upon Hamas and its government in Gaza. The Gaza Strip will receive support and facilities after the visit, which will be seen as Egyptian support to Hamas, Atallah told Ma'an.

The other objective of the visit was an internal reconciliation, brokered by Egypt, between Hamas' leadership in Gaza and its leaders in exile, Atallah said.

The Hamas visit to Egypt was seen by the Fatah-led government in the West Bank as a troubling development for relations between Ramallah and Cairo.

On Tuesday, President Mahmoud Abbas urged the Egyptians to deal only with one representative of the Palestinian people, either the PLO or the Palestinian Authority.

The Hamas delegation is scheduled to leave Cairo Friday.
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