Egyptian custom officials at the Rafah crossing allowed Palestinian Authority President Ismail Haniyeh to smuggle 20 million dollars into the Gaza Strip upon the Hamas leader's return from the hajj pilgrimage on Thursday, Israel Radio reported Saturday.
The Israel Radio report cited comments made by an official in the Egyptian customs authority at the border crossing to the Egyptian newspaper El-Ha'aram.
According to the report, the official said that Haniyeh had acted lawfully by declaring the sums of cash in his possession on the Egyptian side of the crossing. However, when asked by Israel Radio, European officials charged with monitoring the terminal said that the Egyptians said that the PA president was not in possession of foreign currency when he crossed into Gaza.
During their their meeting in Sharm el Sheik last week, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak reportedly told Prime Minister Olmert that Egyptian law does not obligate individuals to declare the amount of money in their possession when they leave the country.
A government minister told Israel Radio that Olmert is expected to raise the subject of the cash smuggling when the cabinet convenes its weekly meeting on Sunday.
The EU is a neutral, third party monitor at the Rafah crossing. It has a mandate to report on activity at the crossing, but it has no authority to impose conditions. The issue of cash smuggling through the Rafah crossing is of particular concern to the Israelis and to Western governments who fear the funds are going to support terrorism either directly or through the Hamas government.
Gen. Pietro Pistolese, head of the European Union's monitoring mission in Rafah, said on December 21 that the EU knew of some $60 million in cash that had passed through the Rafah border crossing. Pistolese told reporters that the Palestinian Authority's Fatah forces, which operate that border crossing, have committed themselves to resolving the problem of cash smuggling into Gaza.
'It's not an agreement, it's a commitment. This commitment was expressed yesterday morning (December 20) at the committee of Palestinians, Israelis and EU officials who met to discuss issues relating to the border crossing,' Pistolese said.
While Pistolese spoke in strong language about the need to stop the flow of money, he said that what had been secured from the Palestinians was a commitment to finding a solution rather than an agreement to stop the smuggling all together.
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