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U.S. to let Hamas patrol Gaza smuggling routes?
Posted By Aaron Klein On 01/26/2009 @ 10:02 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled
TEL AVIV – An official document being negotiated by the U.S., Israel, Egypt and other players currently grants Hamas a role in patrolling the Gaza Strip’s borders, according to an Egyptian intelligence official familiar with the draft document.
The stated purpose of the future patrols, set to follow Israel’s recent offensive in Gaza, are to ensure against Hamas rearming in the territory.
The document is set to be issued by Egypt, but the U.S., Israel and the European Union are heavily involved in the draft text, which would likely grant legitimacy to Hamas’ role in Gaza. Both the U.S. and EU officially classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Hamas’ charter calls for the murder of Jews and destruction of Israel. The group is responsible for scores of suicide bombings, rocket attacks against Jewish population centers, shootings, knifings and cross-border raids.
“There is an understanding of all powers involved that Hamas must play a role, that without Hamas there can be no cross-border agreement,” the Egyptian intelligence official told WND. “So, yes, indirectly the U.S. and Israel admit that Hamas is a player and must be taken into consideration in any political arrangement.
“It will be an Egyptian paper. The U.S. and Israel can then say it’s just Egypt that recognizes Hamas, but this is not true,” the official said.
The document seeks to establish an international monitoring system to prevent Hamas from rearming along the Egypt-Gaza border. According to the Egyptian intelligence official, the monitoring contingent is set to include Egyptian and European monitors as well as representatives from Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party. Hamas has strenuously objected to any Israeli presence along the Egypt-Gaza border.
The Egyptian official said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently arrived in the Egyptian Sinai desert, which borders Gaza, bringing with them advanced machinery to aid Egyptian troops in detecting Hamas smuggling tunnels.
One of Israel’s main goals for its offensive was to halt Hamas’ ability to smuggle weapons across the Egypt-Gaza border. Israel is negotiating an international monitoring mechanism it hopes will stop Hamas from smuggling weapons from neighboring Egypt into Gaza. But previous international monitors stationed along the Egypt-Gaza border fled their duty and repeatedly failed to stem Hamas’ weapons smuggling. The monitors were stationed at the border following Israel’s 2005 evacuation of the Gaza Strip.
Although the U.S. classifies Hamas as a terrorist group, there have been some reports of American contacts with the organization.
Ahmed Yousef, Hamas’ chief political adviser in Gaza, claimed to WND last month his group has held talks with U.S. officials, including members of both Democratic and Republican parties. He said he believed the incoming administration of Barack Obama will favor dialogue with his group.
He also said Hamas is in talks with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who serves as the main envoy for the “Quartet” of Russia, the U.S., the EU and the U.N.
In November, Yousef sparked controversy after he claimed Hamas held a meeting in the Gaza Strip several months prior with aides to Obama. He claimed the terror group was asked to keep the contacts secret until after November’s elections.
The charge was denied by Obama’s transition team.
Some trace Hamas’ claim of newfound international dialogue to Jimmy Carter’s visit in April, when the former president met with top Hamas officials.
Immediately after Carter’s meeting, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner confirmed Paris held talks with Hamas, and Norway’s deputy foreign minister, Raymond Johansan, admitted meeting with Hamas leader Ismail Haniya.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum confirmed to WND that Hamas this year “met a delegation from the European Parliament, from France, and from Italy, and Norway, and from the EU parliament and from Carter.”
“All of these are supporting Hamas, and they have a plan to support Palestinian rights and interests,” Barhoum said, speaking from Gaza.
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