CAIRO: Egypt released 33 Palestinian prisoners affiliated with Hamas Sunday after talks were held the previous day with representatives of the group and Islamic Jihad.
The released prisoners were driven to the Rafah border crossing where they then entered the Gaza Strip. However the most senior member of Hamas incarcerated in Egypt was not among those released.
The 33 prisoners were let go after investigations by Egyptian authorities cleared the Hamas members of any involvement in terrorist activities in the country. They were initially arrested for possession of arms after crossing the border during the Palestinians influx into Rafah in January.
Before Sunday, Hamas claimed that all in all, Egypt had detained 39 members of the group while 90 others were released previously.
On Saturday, Hamas leaders including Jamal Abu Hashem as well as a representative of Islamic Jihad, Khaled Al-Batsh, met with Egyptian officials inside government offices in the Egyptian side of Rafah, according to Reuters.
Talks again centered on attempts to mediate a truce between the two groups and Israel; and were being led on the Egypt side by officials from the office of Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman.
Talks also covered the possibility of a partial reopening of the Rafah border crossing – closed since June 2007 – for two or three days a week, Reuters reported.
North Sinai Tagammu party member Hussein El Qayem told Daily News Egypt that a Hamas officer had informed him that there were plans to allow Palestinians entry into Egypt and go as far as Al-Arish to purchase supplies.
This would take place in two months time and Palestinians would require passports to enter Egypt, according to El Qayem.
Egypt is also trying to mend the rift between Hamas and Fatah led by be Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Last week Hamas had accused Egypt of torturing the prisoners it was holding.
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 wing of Hamas) were “subjected to the most extreme torture while incarcerated in Egypt.
Siyam also said that Egyptian interrogators were trying to ascertain the location of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held since 2006.
“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.
El Qayem said, “They weren’t being tortured, but normal conditions in Egyptian prisons is torture for Hamas.
According to El Qayem, a 16-year-old Hamas member who had raised the Palestinian flag on top of the Sheikh Zowayed telephone station during the breach in January is still being held in Cairo and was not among those released on Sunday.