Hamas spokesman denied entry to Gaza

Sources say decision made after Zuhri criticized Cairo for refusing to open the Rafah border crossing.

Sami Abu Zuhri 224 88 (photo credit: Channel 2 [file])
Sami Abu Zuhri 224 88
(photo credit: Channel 2 [file])
Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior Hamas spokesmen, has not been able to return to his home in the Gaza Strip for four months because the Egyptian authorities won't allow him into Egypt, sources close to Hamas said on Wednesday. The sources noted that Abu Zuhri, who left the Gaza Strip shortly before Operation Cast Lead, has since been forced to move from one Arab country to another after being denied permission to return home through Egypt. According to the sources, the decision to ban Abu Zuhri from entering Egypt was taken after the Hamas spokesman criticized Cairo for refusing to reopen the Rafah border crossing and for blocking humanitarian and medical aid to the Palestinians in Gaza. Attempts by top Hamas officials to persuade Cairo to rescind its decision have thus far been unsuccessful, the sources said. Omar Qinawi, deputy head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, is reported to have denounced Abu Zuhri as someone "lacking in good manners." Abu Zuhri made headlines on May 19, 2006, when Palestinian Authority security and customs officials discovered he had €640,000 on his person, and confiscated it, after he dropped a concealed money belt at a routine border crossing from Egypt to Gaza. Another report said he actually had €900,000. Qinawi's remarks were made during a meeting with Hamas officials who visited Cairo earlier this month for reconciliation talks with Fatah. Another two senior Hamas officials have also been declared persona non grata by the Egyptians, according to a report in the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. It identified them as Hamas legislator and spokesman Mushir al-Masri and Muhammad Nazzal, a senior Damascus-based leader of the Islamist movement. The report quoted Egyptian security sources as saying that the three Hamas men were responsible for a systematic campaign of incitement against the Egyptian regime. The sources said the three were responsible for the wave of anti-Egyptian demonstrations that swept Arab and Islamic countries during and after the recent IDF offensive in the Gaza Strip. Omar Suleiman, head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, rejected a request by Hamas to include Nazzal in the talks with Fatah in Cairo, the sources said. They also pointed out that Suleiman turned down a request from Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to allow Masri to pass through Egypt on his way to Iran. Masri was supposed to attend a conference in Teheran in support of Hamas and in solidarity with the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip last month, but was denied permission to travel through Egypt. The Egyptian measures against the top Hamas officials have strained relations between the two parties. A senior Hamas official in Gaza condemned the measures as "evidence of the Egyptian regime's collusion with the enemies of the Palestinians." Egypt was responsible for the continued blockade on the Gaza Strip because of its insistence on keeping the Rafah border closed, he said.