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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 March 2008, 15:38 GMT
Egypt releases detained Hamas men
By Heba Saleh
BBC News, Cairo

Released Palestinian prisoners are greeted by relatives after crossing the Rafah border point into the Gaza Strip.
Hamas officials have accused Egypt of torturing the men
Egypt has released 33 Palestinian detainees from the militant group Hamas who had been held after they crossed over from the Gaza Strip.

The men came over after Hamas breached the border with Egypt two months ago. Hamas has accused the Egyptian authorities of torturing them.

Egyptian officials have been holding talks with representatives of both Hamas and another group Islamic Jihad.

They have been trying to bring about a truce between Palestinians and Israel.

The Palestinian detainees were arrested in January after they crossed into Egypt along with hundreds of thousands of other Gazans who poured in following the destruction of the border wall by Hamas militants.

The Gazans had come to buy supplies after Israel subjected the territory to a blockade in response to rocket attacks by militants.

Egypt's interests

It was only in the past few days that a Hamas leader spoke publicly of the arrests and said the men had been tortured in Egypt.

He said they were questioned by the Egyptians about the movements of Hamas leaders and about the whereabouts of the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

He is understood to be held in Gaza in a secret location.

Egypt has been trying to mediate a truce between Hamas and Israel in an effort to restore calm to the Gaza Strip.

Officials here have been holding talks with Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives, but so far no announcements have been made.

Egypt wants the truce in order to improve conditions for the Palestinians of Gaza so as to avoid a repetition of the breaching of border.



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