CAIRO: Hamas has accused Egypt of torturing its members who have been held on the other side of the border after crossing from the Gaza strip late January.
Hamas leader Said Siyam told a website that supports the group that he had reliable information that certain members of the Ezzedine Al-Qassam brigade (the armed branch of Hamas) were “subjected to the most extreme torture while incarcerated in Egypt.
“The Hamas prisoners suffered all sorts of torture. Those who have been freed have given accounts of being tortured and of interrogations, which have nothing to do with the security of Egypt, another Hamas official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The Hamas official said that 39 members of the group were currently being held in Egypt, and that 90 had been released in recent weeks.
The militants had crossed into Egypt in January when Hamas blew up parts of the border wall with Egypt allowing hundreds of thousands of Gazans to pour through after Israel had instituted a blockade on the strip.
The group’s spokesman Fawzi Barhum told AFP: “Hamas has expressed its dissatisfaction over the continuing detentions of dozens of Palestinians in Egyptian prisons and denounces the torture which has been inflicted on them.
The fate of the Hamas prisoners has been a subject of continuous talks between Hamas and Egyptian officials who have been trying to broker a truce between the group and Israel.
“Egypt has promised to release them and I hope this can be done as quickly as possible, Barhum said.
Last month, Egypt had agreed to release 115 prisoners who had been taken into custody after the border breach. Siyam was part of the delegation that had met with Egyptian officials in Al-Arish.
The fate of the prisoners has been a sticking point in the talks between Egypt and Hamas which also included talks on the security of the Egypt-Gaza border.
Journalist, activist and North Sinai Tagammu party member Mustapha Singer previously told Daily News Egypt that Hamas was adamant on the prisoners’ release because some of those arrested were high-ranking members of the group.
Singer added that the Egyptian side was not budging on the matter of the prisoner release at the time.
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.