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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Egyptians protesting fuel shortages, not happy with Hamas

Egypt Independent reports:
The crisis resulting from the shortage of fuel and butane gas cylinders escalated on Tuesday, with taxi drivers blocking roads and people staging protests in various governorates.

In Sohag, taxi drivers blocked a railway and set fire to the signals, completely halting train movement in both directions, and the residents blocked the Akhmim Bridge that connects the east and the west of the city. They also threatened to storm the governor’s office if he did not solve the crisis, prompting him to call security services for protection.

Altercations took place between drivers and gas station employees in Fayoum. Both sides fought with knives but no injuries were reported. When the drivers threatened to set fire to the station, the police had to intervene and regulate the distribution of fuel among the cars.

In Minya, scores of people protested the shortage and blocked the roads, demanding that government officials resolve the problem. In Kafr al-Sheikh, cars queued in front of gas stations, obstructing traffic in the city, while in Beheira people clashed with taxi drivers for raising their tariffs.
The Egyptian Gazette adds:
Some drivers linked the crisis to smugglers, who reportedly buy up the subsidised petrol to sell abroad.
Which means - Gaza.

Egyptians are not happy with the idea of selling fuel at a low rate to Hamas while they cannot get any for themselves, which might be one reason Egypt has been dragging its feet on sending fuel to Gaza.

The Media Line details other problems between Hamas and Egypt:
Over the weekend, Yusef Rizka, adviser to Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh, whose Hamas movement has ruled the Mediterranean enclave since seizing power in 2007, charged that the leadership in Egypt is using the fuel crisis for “political extortion.” But Cairo charges that Gaza smugglers are buying subsidized gasoline in Egypt and reselling it at a profit at home.

The latest bickering comes against a background of disappointment on the part of the two neighbors.

Cairo accuses Hamas of taking advantage of the lawlessness in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula by turning a blind eye to a flood of 1,300 stolen cars being smuggled into Gaza and allowing drugs grown there to be shipped out. They accuse the Islamic group of being behind the circulation of some $40 million of counterfeit U.S. currency in Egypt.

A senior Hamas security source sheepishly admitted that purloined vehicles had made there way to Gaza, but denied it was on a large scale. “It’s only 15 cars, not 1,300,” he told The Media Line on condition of anonymity.

But Egyptian accusations go deeper. Officials in Cairo say Hamas and other terrorist groups backed by Iran have turned Sinai into a staging ground for attacks on Israel. In fact, Israel says it has repeatedly foiled Sinai operations directed from Gaza. Its air force killed Zuhir Al-Qaisi, heads of the Popular Resistance Committee in a targeted assassination March 9, saying he was planning an attack from Sinai.

Cairo has been unhappy that Qatar, the distant, tiny but hugely wealthy Gulf emirate, supplanted it as mediator in the latest attempt to negotiate a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and its rival Fatah movement, which retains control of the West Bank. The talks have failed so far, but Qatar’s involvement was a blow to Egyptian prestige.

Hamas has it grievances, too. Expectations that the interim military government that replaced Mubarak would open the border between Gaza and Egypt and undermine Israel’s blockade have been disappointed; months after it was opened, traffic through the sole crossing point -- Rafah Terminal -- is severely restricted.

Moreover, Hamas officials themselves have been subject to delays travelling in and out of Gaza through Egypt, their only route to the outside world. Over the past few weeks, dozens of Hamas field commanders were blocked from crossing through the terminal Last month, Atef Edwan, a Hamas lawmaker, former minister and official in charge of refugees, was denied permission to visit Egypt when he landed at Cairo Airport and was told that he would be taken directly to Rafah, Hamas sources in Gaza told The Media Line.

Even Haniyeh, the prime minister, has been subject to insulting treatment, the security sources said. When Haniyeh left Gaza for a tour of the Gulf (including Iran, despite Cairo’s disapproval) his crossing at Rafah was delayed for two hours, allegedly for technical reasons, and his meeting with Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal Al-Janzouri was cancelled.
IANS adds:
Yousef Rezqa, an aide to the head of the Hamas government Ismail Haniya, told Xinhua that the Egyptian intelligence, who works to topple the Hamas rule, "is behind the crisis."

"The crisis is completely political. Particularly, the Egyptian intelligence has a hand in it. We hope that Egypt will be part of the solution, not part of deterioration of the crisis," said Rezqa.

Hamas expected the post-Mubarak Egypt to cozy up with the terrorist group, but it hasn't happened yet. The question is whether things will change when the new Islamist government is fully in place.