After being detained for several hours in the Egyptian city of el-Arish pursuant to a closure of the Rafah crossing, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is anticipated to cross over into Gaza Thursday night.
Earlier Thursday, Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered the closure of the Rafah crossing in Gaza Thursday to prevent Haniyeh from returning to the Strip with dozens of millions of dollars in aid that he had received from neighboring Arab nations and Iran, during his recent trip around the Middle East.
Haniyeh in el-Arish (Photo: AP)
Palestinian sources reported that an agreement had been reached, wherein Haniyeh would leave the money (some USD 30 million) in el-Arish and that it would be transferred to the Palestinian Authority within the upcoming days.
Haniyeh cut short his tour of several Arab countries in light of the heightened tensions between Hamas and Fatah; the Palestinian prime minister was scheduled to hold a press conference at the Rafah crossing and offer details of his trip, particularly with regards to the funds he was able to raise in Iran and Qatar.
Rafah crossing closed (Photo: AP)
Palestinian sources reported earlier that gunmen kidnapped a Palestinian Intelligence officer, prompting fears that the ongoing violence in the Strip may escalate further. Haniyeh's political advisor stated that "we need the prime minister to solve internal issues."
Earlier, two Palestinian policemen were injured during exchanges of fire with gunmen, after they detained a Hamas operative in a Hamas-affiliated neighborhood in Gaza.
The man, Hisham Mukhaimar, a member of Hamas' Popular Resistance Committees, was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the murder Monday of three schoolboys whose father was an intelligence official considered close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Haniyeh's Middle East tour
Earlier, Haniyeh visited and met with leaders in Egypt. His Middle East tour also included visits to Iran and the Gulf states, who pledged financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority.
During his visit in Tehran – the first of a Palestinian prime minister to Iran – Haniyeh declared that a Hamas-led government would never recognize Israel and would continue to fight to "liberate Jerusalem".
During a speech in the city, Haniyeh referred to Iran as the Palestinians' "strategic depth", because of their joint battle against Israel.
"They (Israelis) assume the Palestinian nation is alone. This is an illusion. ... We have a strategic depth in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This country (Iran) is our powerful, dynamic and stable depth," he said.
Ali Waked contributed to the writing of this article