Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh denied reports Thursday that Hamas would declare the Gaza Strip a “liberated territory,” stressing that Gaza remains part and parcel of “Palestinian land and the Palestinian national project.”
Haniyeh spoke in Cairo, where he arrived Wednesday as part of a large Hamas delegation for a series of meetings with Egyptian officials, including General Intelligence director Murad Muwafi and President Mohammed Morsi. This is his second visit to Egypt since the toppling of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Hamas is considered an ideological offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement that Morsi belongs to.
Following the meeting with Morsi, Haniyeh told the Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Information Center news agency that he had sensed unprecedented positivity from the new president regarding a range of issues, noting that it was unlike anything he had experienced with the former regime.
Morsi, however, gave no concrete promises to the Palestinians on increasing trade with Egypt or the complete opening of the Rafah border crossing, two of the hot button issues on the Palestinian agenda. According to the news agency, Morsi said only that “tangible concessions will be made for Gaza residents.” Reports that Egypt has waived the demand for entry visas for adult Palestinian men were dispelled this week.
Haniyeh reassured his Egyptian counterpart that Hamas’s demand of Egypt to ease the closure on Gaza “was not meant to exempt the occupation from its responsibility for the Gaza siege.”
Allaying Egyptian concerns of a Palestinian influx into Sinai following an easing of border procedures, Haniyeh said that the Sinai Peninsula will remain “Egyptian territory for Egyptians and not for nationalizing Palestinians.”
Haniyeh also discussed the defunct reconciliation talks with rival movement Fatah with the Egyptians, saying that “there was no going back from them.”