Palestinians feud, but Egypt and Hamas working more closely
Meeting in Cairo fails to mend the divide between President Abbas and Hamas over Gaza border.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dug in his heels Wednesday after a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to address the crisis over the Gaza border, publicly refusing to work with his Palestinian rival Hamas and calling for forces loyal to his government to take control of the border.Skip to next paragraph
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While his defiant tone favors the status quo – he called the Hamas seizure of the Gaza Strip last June "a coup" – it came in the face of changing realities on the ground.
Hamas and Egyptian authorities, for example, are working more closely now.
Across town in Cairo, senior Hamas leaders met Wednesday with Omar Suleiman, the powerful head of Egypt's intelligence services. In the border town of Rafah, Egyptian and Hamas security officials continued to work to restore order at the crossing. It was Hamas's first official visit to Cairo since June, when Mr. Mubarak criticized the Hamas takeover as hurting the chances of peace.
Some analysts had expected that the breaching of Gaza's economic isolation by Hamas-backed militants with explosives and bulldozers last week – hundreds of thousands have crossed the border to buy scarce goods since – would start forcing the divided Palestinian political factions back to the negotiating table.
Though there were no signs of a rapprochement, with leaders of both factions sniping at each other through the press, Hamas has forced a change in attitude by Egypt and some other regional states by demonstrating that with their physical control of Gaza, no solution to controlling the border is possible without them.
The US, Israel, and Mr. Abbas continue to refuse to deal with Hamas until it halts rocket fire from the Gaza Strip (in the case of the US and Israel) and hands over control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority and agrees to early elections (in the case of Mr. Abbas). But both Egypt and Saudi Arabia have reached out to the Islamist group in recent days.
In addition to the meetings with Egyptian officials, Hamas's top leader Khaled Meshaal traveled to Saudi Arabia earlier this week to hold talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on finding ways to bring the Palestinian factions back together. A Saudi government spokesman told reporters the kingdom is eager for Palestinian unity.