Israel agreed Thursday evening to allow Palestinian PM Ismail Haniyeh to cross from Egypt into Gaza, but without the $35 million in cash he had brought from a tour of Muslim states. Defense Minister Amir Peretz had earlier instructed the IDF to stop Palestinians entering Gaza via the Rafah border crossing, in order to prevent Haniyeh from crossing with the money.
Israel Radio reported that the money would be left in Egypt, and on Friday transferred to the bank account of the Arab League. Israeli security sources said that the decision to close the border was made to stop the cash transfer, not to prevent Haniyeh's return.
The head of Egypt's intelligence service, Omar Suleiman, had contacted Israeli officials in order to find a solution that would allow Haniyeh to return to Gaza. Hamas members, angered by the ban on Haniyeh's money, burst into the Rafah border terminal, sparking a gunbattle with guards before taking control of the crossing. Travelers at the terminal dove for cover and a top Hamas official furiously tried to persuade the gunmen to disperse. Following the gunbattle, European monitors said the border would not be reopened Thursday, though Haniyeh might still be able to cross from Egypt.
In the chaos of the attack, two loud explosions rocked the area, and security officials said Hamas had blown a hole in the border fence about one kilometer from the terminal.