Hamas PM Haniyeh at Rafah before entering Egypt 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh met Egyptian
President Mohamed Mursi on Thursday in an official visit that signaled a big
shift in Cairo's stance toward the Hamas movement after the election of a Muslim
Brotherhood head of state in Egypt.
A Palestinian official said the head
of Egyptian intelligence had promised measures to increase the flow of fuel
supplied by Qatar to Gaza via Egypt and needed to ease the small Palestinian
territory's power shortages.
But there was no immediate sign that Cairo
was ready to open up its border with Gaza to the extent sought by Hamas,
something analysts partly attributed to the influence still wielded by the Hosni
Mubarak-era security establishment.
"Mursi's heart is with Hamas but his
mind is elsewhere," said Hany al-Masri, a Palestinian political commentator. "He
will give them as much as he can but he won't be able to give them much because
his powers are restricted," he said.
Mursi's victory was celebrated in
Gaza as a turning point for a territory whose economy has been affected by a
blockade imposed by Israel and in which Egypt took part by stopping everything
but a trickle of people from crossing the border.
Mursi's spokesman said the meeting had touched on subjects
including "lifting the siege and the suffering of the people in Gaza" and
reconciliation with the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud
Sworn in on June 30, Mursi is trying to stamp his authority on an
Egyptian state still influenced to a large degree by a council of military
generals led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak's defense minister for
Mursi, Haniyeh share Ramadan meal
Mubarak had regarded
Gaza's Islamist rulers with suspicion bordering on outright hostility reflecting
his enmity towards the Brotherhood, the ideological parent of Hamas that was
outlawed for decades in Egypt until last year's uprising.
Mubarak never recognized the Hamas administration which has governed Gaza since 2007, when its
forces defeated Abbas' Palestinian Authority. Earlier this month, Mursi received
both Abbas and Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas leader in exile.
Haniyeh and Mursi shared a Ramadan iftar
- the meal with which Muslims break
their fast during the holy Islamic fasting month. Earlier, Haniyeh had met chief
of intelligence Murad Muwafi, reflecting the role still played by the Egyptian
security establishment in managing Palestinian affairs.
said the quantity of fuel supplied via Egypt to Gaza would be more than doubled
next week, a Palestinian official familiar with the talks told
The fuel supplied by Qatar goes from Egypt into Israel, from
where it passes through a crossing into Gaza in accordance with the existing
arrangements on how goods pass into the territory that was captured by Israel
from Egypt in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Israel withdrew all its settlers and soldiers from Gaza
Earlier this year, Brotherhood officials had lobbied for the
fuel to be sent straight across Egypt's border with Gaza - a move sought by
Hamas and which would have marked a major step towards opening the border to
trade and commerce.
In another apparent gesture triggered by Mursi's
election victory, Egypt is to ease restrictions on Palestinians traveling
through Egyptian territory on their way in and out of Gaza, Egyptian border
officials said this week.
A diplomat familiar with Cairo's
policies on Gaza did not expect Mursi to open Rafah to trade. But all else could
be discussed, he said, including "improving conditions at crossings and
increasing the number of passengers and Egyptian aid."