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21:29, 28 May 2017 Sunday
Update: 13:12, 14 July 2012 Saturday

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Mursi will end Gaza blockade, says Hamas
Mursi will end Gaza blockade, says Hamas

Hamas's prime minister in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh called on Egypt to keep the Rafah border crossing open

World Bulletin/News Desk

Hamas's prime minister in the Gaza Strip said on Friday he was confident Egypt's new president would shield the Palestinian enclave from Israeli attack and fully open its borders to end a trade blockade.

Mohamed Mursi, who won power in last month's presidential election in Egypt, is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and ideologically close to Hamas.

The Gazans long complained that his predecessor Hosni Mubarak, ousted from power last year in a popular revolt, sided not just with Israel, but also with their political rival -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement.

So far, Hamas has seen little sign of a policy shift since Mursi took office and diplomats said the Egyptian leader had so many domestic problems that he could ill-afford to dedicate much time to re-tooling Cairo's relations with the Palestinians.

However, Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas's Gaza government, told worshippers in a mosque that change was coming.

"We are confident that Egypt, the revolution led by Mursi, will never provide cover for any new aggression or war on Gaza," he said. "We are confident that Egypt, the revolution led by Mursi, will not take any part in blocking Gaza," he added.

Mubarak helped police the Gaza blockade and did not let any goods officially cross the border, saying this was part of longstanding accords with Washington and Israel. However, Cairo always turned a blind eye to a thriving blackmarket business with Gaza conducted through a warren of underground tunnels.

A few hundred people cross in and out of Gaza every day via Egypt and the number of passengers has increased since Mursi took office. However, officials on both sides explain this on the start of the holiday season rather than on any policy shift.

Mursi's position will soon be put to test when he meets officials from Hamas and Fatah.

Protocol means that Mursi will almost certainly see Abbas first, with one source saying it would happen on Wednesday. No date has yet been set for a Hamas delegation to be received.

Both President Abbas and Hamas are likely to be pressed by Egypt to end their long-standing hostilities, which at one point saw the two sides fight a brief civil war in Gaza.

"No one can help the Palestinians more than they can help themselves. They should take daring steps to end their rifts," an official in Cairo told Reuters by phone.

Repeated attempts at Palestinian reconciliation have ended in failure, with the two sides at loggerheads on everything from setting a date for elections to cooperating on security.



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Libya extremist group Ansar al-Sharia announces dissolution
Libya extremist group Ansar al-Sharia announces dissolution

The Libyan jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia, which is linked to Al-Qaeda and deemed a terrorist organisation by the UN and United States, announced its "dissolution" in a communique published online on Saturday. Washington accuses the group of being behind the September 11, 2012 attack on the US consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi in which ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. Ansar al-Sharia is one of the jihadist groups that sprung up in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, in the chaos following the death of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011. They overran the city in 2014. East Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar earlier this month launched an offensive to oust jihadist fighters from their two remaining strongholds in Benghazi. In its communique Ansar al-Sharia said it had been "weakened" by the fighting. The group lost its leader, Mohammed Azahawi, in clashes with Haftar's forces in Benghazi at the end of 2014. Most of its members then defected to the so-called Islamic State group. Ansar al-Sharia later joined the Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi, a local alliance of Islamist militias. At its zenith, Ansar al-Sharia was present in Benghazi and Derna in eastern Syria, with offshoots in Sirte and Sabratha, western Libya. The organisation took over barracks and other sites abandoned by the ousted Kadhafi forces and transformed them into training grounds for hundreds of jihadists seeking to head to Iraq or Syria.