(photo credit: AP [File])
Egyptian security officials at the Rafah border crossing on Tuesday turned back several bodyguards and aides accompanying Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on his first visit to Egypt.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, held talks in Jordan with King Abdullah on the latest developments in the Palestinian territories in the aftermath of the cease-fire with Israel that was announced earlier this week.
Sources close to Abbas told The Jerusalem Post that he will also discuss preparations for the deployment of the Jordan-based Palestinian Bader Force in the Gaza Strip. They said Israel has agreed in principle to allow the 2,000-strong force, which is a branch of the PLO's Palestine Liberation Army, to deploy in the Gaza Strip to help enforce law and order.
According to the sources, Abbas will brief King Abdullah on the ongoing crisis with Hamas surrounding the formation of a Palestinian unity government. Abbas is scheduled to meet in Jericho on Thursday with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"The unity government talks have failed," said a senior PA official in Ramallah.
"President Abbas is very disappointed with Hamas and its leaders because they placed their interests above the national interests of the Palestinians. The talks failed because Hamas wants to retain control over most of the key ministries. President Abbas will now have to weigh alternative measures to resolve the crisis." Ismail Radwan, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, said the main differences between Abbas and Haniyeh center on control over the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior and Finance.
"Abbas has backtracked on a number of agreements he reached with Haniyeh regarding the distribution of the cabinet portfolios," he charged. "Abbas wants the right to veto Hamas's candidates for the government and this is unacceptable."
Haniyeh, who left the Gaza Strip for the first time since he was elected prime minister, is expected to visit several Arab and Islamic countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Algiers, Syria, Qatar and Iran.
Accompanied by Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas-led government and Muhammed Awad, director of the PA prime minister's office, Haniyeh crossed into Egypt through the Rafah terminal.
His convoy, which consisted of 13 vehicles, was stopped by Egyptian security officials, who informed Hanyeh that he would be allowed to enter Egypt with just one vehicle and a handful of aides and bodyguards. At least 15 other people who were accompanying Haniyeh were forced to turn back.
The Egyptians justified the decision by saying that Haniyeh's office had failed to coordinate with the Egyptian authorities regarding the number and identity of the people escorting him on his visit to Cairo. A Hamas official in Gaza City described the Egyptian ban as "scandalous." Before crossing into Egypt, Haniyeh told reporters that his tour was aimed at deepening ties between the Hamas-led government and Arab and Islamic countries. He said he will seek the backing of Arab and Muslim leaders for ending international sanctions imposed on the Palestinians since Hamas came to power.