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Hamas cash into Gaza is stopped

Rafah Crossing (17/01/09)
The Hamas delegation was passing through the Rafah crossing

A senior Hamas official has been prevented from crossing back into Gaza with millions of dollars in cash, say Egyptian authorities.

Border guards at the Rafah crossing searched members of a Hamas delegation as they returned from talks in Cairo.

They say the man had $9m (6m) and 2m euros (1.7m) in his bags. He was made to return to the Egyptian capital.

The Palestinian territory has a shortage of cash caused by the Israeli blockade and other sanctions.

Egypt allowed Hamas representatives to cross into Gaza with large sums of money several times, after the Islamist group won parliamentary elections three years ago, says the BBC's Yolande Knell in Cairo.

But this is said to be the first attempt made since Hamas seized control of Gaza by force in mid-2007.

Israel complains that Hamas smuggles money and weapons through Egypt into the Gaza Strip.

The six-member Hamas negotiating team had been in Cairo for talks on a lasting truce with Israel.

Five members were allowed to cross in Gaza but official Ayman Taha had to stay in Egypt while a decision was taken about what to do with the money, officials said.

There was no immediate comment from Hamas.

Money transfer

The delegation earlier walked away from the ceasefire talks, citing disagreements over lifting the blockade.

It is due to return to Cairo on Saturday to give its final response to an Egyptian proposal.

Meanwhile, Israel says it has given permission for the Palestinian Authority to transfer money from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip to pay government officials there.

It is the first such transfer since the end of the three-week Israeli offensive in Gaza last month.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said it had agreed to a request from Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to transfer 170m shekels ($42.5m, 29m).

Mr Fayyad had earlier this week spoken about the territory's liquidity crisis.

The officials to be paid are mostly Fatah members, reports the AP news agency.

Palestinian officials have not confirmed the Israeli decision.



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