Israel Resource Review 14th Febuary, 2009


Hamas: From Cairo to UNRWA
David Bedein

There is an oft-repeated statement that echoes across the Israeli political spectrum during the current Israeli political campaign, which is Israel will overthrow the Hamas government, which now rules Gaza.

With that threat in mind, a high level Hamas five-member delegation is now conducting talks in Cairo with one goal in mind: To gain international backing for the future of their Islamic regime in Gaza, which is the first Sunni Islamic regime in the Arab world. The Islamic regime in Iran is Persian and Shiite, not Arab and Sunni.

The Hamas delegation included Gaza Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, who emerged from six weeks of hiding to arrive in Cairo. This marked Mr. Zahar's first public appearance since the 22-day Israel-Hamas war, in which he was said to have been injured.

The arrival of the Hamas delegation took place one day after a senior Israeli Defense Ministry official held talks in Cairo with Egyptian intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Omar Suleiman.

"They [Egypt] have a duty to provide guarantees that bind the Zionist entity, and the Egyptians have to give us answers to our inquiries," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told the Egyptian media.

The spokesman of the Hamas delegation said that he was also concerned about any proposed international presence along the borders of Gaza. He said that Hamas demanded that international monitors have no authority to stop travelers or goods

Hamas has also sought to control humanitarian shipments to Gaza. On February 6, in the wake of several Hamas seizures of humanitarian supplies, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which has operated Palestinian refugee camps since 1949, announced it had suspended all aid imports to Gaza until further notice.

UNRWA spokespeople said Hamas had earlier seized 200 tons of rice and 100 tons of flour imported from Egypt. The U.N. agency said the Hamas seizure was the second in three days.

"UNRWA's suspension of imports will remain in effect until the aid is returned and the agency is given credible assurances from the Hamas government in Gaza that there will be no repeat of these thefts," the UNRWA said in a press statement.

There is a fly in the ointment of the UNRWA denunciation of Hamas: In the UNRWA workers union elections of 2003, 82 percent of the UNRWA employees declared their membership in the Islamic Bloc party, which is run by Hamas. In June 2004, the head of UNRWA, Peter Hansen, told a Canadian TV network that Hamas-affiliated members were on his staff.

Meanwhile, UNRWA officials acknowledge that candidates for employment with UNRWA are not even asked if they are members of Hamas.

UNRWA officials also acknowledge that there is no requirement for UNRWA personnel to dissociate themselves from Hamas.

In other words, UNRWA will have to investigate its own employees who are Hamas members played a role in the Hamas theft of humanitarian supplies to UNRWA.

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