CAIRO: Egypt has agreed to release 115 Palestinians taken into custody after the breach of the border with Gaza last month, Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha said Sunday.
The agreement to release the prisoners came after the third meeting in 10 days between Hamas and Egyptian officials when they sat down to two separate meetings in Al-Arish, 40 km from the border Saturday.
Taha also said that there would be further meetings with Egyptian officials in the near future.
Sources in the area confirmed that an agreement had been reached for the release of the prisoners, a sticking point for Hamas as the two sides attempted to arbitrate the situation on the border.
Journalist, ctivist and North Sinai Tagammu party member Mustapha Singer told Daily News Egypt that Hamas was adamant on the prisoners’ release because some of those arrested were high-ranking members of the group.
However, he said that the number of prisoners to be released were 105, not 115 as the Hamas spokesman had announced.
There were two separate meetings because “in the first meeting on Saturday afternoon the Egyptians were not budging on the issue of the prisoner release and this caused tension on the border. Egypt sent reinforcements to make sure nothing happened, Singer said.
“Another meeting was held in the evening when an agreement was reached to release the Hamas prisoners and this restored calm to the border, Singer added.
The six-member Hamas delegation that entered Egypt on Saturday was headed by Mahmoud Zahar and Said Siyam.
A sense of normality has returned to the border to the extent that “traders are stockpiling goods in anticipation of a possible reopening of the Rafah crossing, Singer said.
According to The Associated Press, Egyptian officials at the meeting repeated warnings to Hamas to not cause any disturbances on the border and not consider a repeat of the Jan. 23 breach when they blew up parts of the wall to allow Gaza residents to go through. Hamas wants the Rafah border crossing to be reopened as it is the only entry and exit point from Gaza not controlled by Israeli forces. Egypt wants to return to a 2005 agreement where the crossing would be manned by Palestinian Authority troops and monitored by EU observers.
Hamas, however, insists that it is the only authority that should man the crossing point, as it is the ruler in Gaza.