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Thursday, 5 February 2009

Hamas official stopped with £8 million in cash

Egyptian police intercepted a senior Hamas official yesterday as he tried to enter the Gaza Strip with nearly £8 million in cash stuffed into his bags.

Ayman Taha, a spokesman for the Islamist movement that rules the war-ravaged enclave between Israel and Egypt, was returning from talks in Cairo aimed at establishing a long-term ceasefire with Israel after the recent three-week war.

He was part of a six-man delegation stopped by Egyptian police at the Rafah border on Gaza's southern edge carrying nine million dollars and two million euros in cash. The delegates said that the money was needed to pay salaries in Gaza at a time when Israel has restricted the flow of cash in an attempt to stifle Hamas, which it deems a terrorist organisation.

The Hamas delegation was returning home after truce talks became deadlocked over disagreements on border security and the Israeli blockade of Gaza but the negotiators are expected to return next week.

Egypt had hoped to unveil its truce plan yesterday. Egyptian officials appeared unsure as to what to do with the large sums of cash, saying that they could deposit it at an Egyptian bank or allow it to stay with Mr Taha, who remained in Egypt. More