Hamas continues smuggling millions of dollars

PA FM Mahmoud Zahar returned to the Gaza Strip Tuesday with nearly $20 million in cash.

A-zahar close up 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
A-zahar close up 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas is continuing to smuggle millions of dollars in cash through the Rafah border crossing, bypassing international sanctions imposed on the Palestinians since the Islamist movement came to power more than eight months ago, Palestinian Authority security sources said Tuesday. According to the sources, PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas, who returned to the Gaza Strip Tuesday, brought with him nearly $20 million in cash. Zahar, who was on a two-week tour of several Arab and Islamic countries, was allowed to cross the Rafah border crossing into the Gaza Strip without delay, the sources added. This is the largest sum to be brought into the Gaza Strip by a single Hamas leader in the last few months. Earlier this month, two Hamas leaders, Ahmed Bahar and Mushir al-Masri, arrived at the border crossing each with $2 million in cash. Bahar was allowed to pass without inspection, while the Egyptian authorities on the other side of the Rafah terminal briefly detained Masri. The two later delivered the money to the Hamas-controlled Finance Ministry. Hamas officials said all of the money came from donations collected in several Arab and Islamic countries. They claimed that the money was being used to pay salaries to thousands of civil servants and members of the PA security forces. However, Fatah leaders said Tuesday the money was also being used to finance numerous Hamas institutions and the movement's armed wing, Izaddin Kassam. They estimated that Hamas has, over the past eight months, smuggled more than $80 million in cash through the Rafah border crossing.