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Weekly update 26 March


With full acknowledgments to the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre:


The crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip 

During the past week humanitarian aid continued flowing through the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip, with an average of more than 100 trucks a day.

The Rafah crossing

On March 18 the Rafah crossing opened for the passage of Palestinians to and from the Gaza Strip and Egypt . Hamas was angry that Egypt had not coordinated the opening with it or sent an official announcement. According to Hamas, the Egyptians allowed Palestinians who organized their passage with the Palestinian Authority to use the crossing at the expense of “civilians who have to pass through.” However, on March 18 Hamas issued a statement to the effect that the crossing's opening would be coordinated with the Egyptians (Hamas interior ministry website, March 18, 2009 ).

On March 21 the Rafah crossing closed. A senior Egyptian official said anonymously that it would be closed for an unlimited period of time and that only patients and Palestinians with humanitarian problems would use it. During the three days it was open about 800 Palestinians entered the Gaza Strip and 200 left for Egypt (Reuters, March 21, 2009 ).

Covert Transfer of Money by Hamas into the Gaza Strip

On March 17 the Egyptian security forces at the Rafah crossing detained two Hamas activists found carrying $850,000 hidden in candy boxes . The two, Muhammad Jneida and Ahmed Hajaj, were returning from Egypt participating in the internal Palestinian dialogue. Eventually they were released and the money was impounded by the Egyptians. The delegation, which was on its way home to the Gaza Strip, also smuggled in a generator and night-vision equipment (AP, March 17, 2009 ).

Note : On February 5, 2009 , the Hamas delegation on its way back to the Gaza Strip after talks in Cairo was also delayed and searched by the Egyptian security forces. In the possession of senior Hamas figure Ayman Taha $9 million and two million euros in cash were found . The money was deposited in a bank account in Egypt and Ayman Taha was released. After a number of weeks Egypt authorized the transfer of the funds to the Gaza Strip.

Hamas to UNRWA: We Control the Gaza Strip

A visit paid by the secretary general of the Islamic Committee to the Gaza Strip was arranged with UNRWA and not with Hamas, and provoked Hamas's anger. Following the incident Mustafa al-Soaf, editor of Felesteen , the Hamas daily newspaper, wrote an article called “ The agency (UNRWA) – between assistance and politics .” Its main points were the following ( Felesteen , March 18, 2009 ):

Apparently, according to the article, UNRWA has forgotten that its real mandate is to help the refugees and instead has begun to act as a government within a government. UNRWA has been encouraged to do so by the [international] quartet. The time has come for the Hamas government to show UNRWA what its limits are, and instruct the organization to focus on fulfilling its original function.

UNRWA interprets the leeway given it by the Hamas government as weakness, or as a sign that the Hamas government is afraid of the UN. However, that is not the case, proof of which is that the government enables visitors to enter the Gaza Strip and is responsible for their safety, including the safety of UNRWA.

Hamas examined the complaints against UNRWA, according to which it and other aid organizations discriminate in the distribution of aid by giving preferential treatment to certain sectors. That means that UNRWA, on which people depend for humanitarian assistance, does not fulfill its role and infringes on the Gazans' rights. UNRWA does not own the aid which reaches the Gaza Strip but is only the liaison between the donors and the needy.

Since Operation Cast Lead there have been reports to the effect that Hamas channels civilian aid to its own people, or to groups affiliated with it, while depriving its opponents and preventing them from receiving assistance. The article in Felesteen is an attempt to divert fire toward UNRWA while making it clear that Hamas is in control of the Gaza Strip, and that UNRWA's job is limited to humanitarian aid, nothing more. 

The Tunnel Industry

The media reported that the Egyptian security forces continue their activities to prevent smuggling under the Egypt-Gaza Strip border. On March 20 a cache of weapons was discovered in the Rafah region, including half a ton of TNT, a number of rockets and automatic weapons (Ilaf website, March 20, 2009 ). On March 19 the security forces uncovered two tunnels in which were food, drugs, spare parts and electrical equipment, all meant to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip (Middle East News Agency, March 19 or 20 not 10). On March 20 and 21 four additional tunnels were uncovered ( Al-Yawm Al-Sabaa , March 21). On March 23 the Al-Yawm Al-Sabaa website reported that Egypt had recently increased its forces in the tunnel region to cope with smuggling activity.