Gaza’s de-facto Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh met Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Thursday in an official visit that signaled a shift in Cairo's stance toward Hamas after the election of a Muslim Brotherhood head of state in Egypt.
An official from Gaza told Reuters that the head of Egyptian intelligence had promised measures to increase the flow of fuel supplied by Qatar to Gaza via Egypt. The sides had also discussed increasing the flow of Palestinian Authority Arabs across the border.
However, the report noted, there was no immediate sign that Cairo was ready to open up its border with Gaza to the extent sought by Hamas, something analysts partly attributed to the influence still wielded by the Hosni Mubarak-era security establishment.
In a recent speech, Haniyeh called on Morsi to open the borders between Gaza and Egypt and protect Gaza against what he termed “Israeli aggression.”
Hany al-Masri, a PA political commentator, told Reuters that “Morsi's heart is with Hamas but his mind is elsewhere. He will give them as much as he can but he won't be able to give them much because his powers are restricted.”
Morsi’s victory was celebrated in Gaza which Hamas, an offshoot of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, rules. However, an Egyptian analyst told Reuters that as head of state, Morsi must balance support for Gaza with the need to respect international commitments, including Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.
“He will be very cautious,” said the analyst, Mustapha Kamel Al-Sayyid. “The intelligence and the military will have their say on this.”
In a statement quoted by Reuters, Hamas said Morsi had “promised to take measures that would ease the lives of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” Mursi's spokesman said the meeting had touched on subjects including "lifting the siege and the suffering of the people in Gaza" and reconciliation with Hamas's arch-rival, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas.
Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah faction have had a longtime row since Hamas violently overthrew the Fatah government in Gaza five years ago. The two factions signed a reconciliation deal in May of 2011, but the deal has repeatedly faltered as the parties spar over its implementation.
Fatah recently accused Hamas that, by demanding that Egypt open its border with Gaza, it is supporting what it termed Israel’s plan “to separate between Gaza and Judea and Samaria and annex Gaza into Egypt.”
Last week, Morsi met with Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal and other members of Hamas’s politburo. The official Egyptian news agency noted that during the meeting, Morsi stressed the importance he places on Egypt's support “for the Palestinian nation’s struggle to achieve its legitimate rights”, unifying the lines between Hamas and Fatah, supplying Gaza with fuel and electricity and easing the restrictions on the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.
In an attempt to reject Fatah’s claims, Mashaal told Morsi that Hamas does not want to place responsibility for Gaza on Egypt’s shoulders, adding Gaza is an integral part of “Palestine”.