Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood promised to encourage President Mohammed Morsi to establish a free trade zone along Sinai's border with the Gaza Strip, a source from Palestinian Hamas movement said Wednesday.
"The Brothers' leaders promised us to intervene on Morsi's personal level to remove the obstacles facing the creation of the zone," the source said.
Hamas, an offshoot of the Brothers, has been controlling the Gaza Strip since 2007. It has sustained an international isolation led by former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Israel also imposed a strict commercial closure on Gaza to weaken Hamas, but started a gradual relaxation of the closure in 2010.
With the Muslim Brothers taking over in Egyptian presidential elections in June, Hamas envisaged a free trade zone with Egypt to get rid of the remaining effects of the Israeli blockade.
"It's now clear that the creation of the zone was not as easy as it was said," the source said, adding that Morsi came under intensive pressure by "external parties," including the West Bank- based Palestinian National Authority (PNA).
Yousef Rizka, an advisor to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haneya, said the political split between Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party is the main obstacle preventing free commerce between Gaza and Egypt.
Hamas wrested control of Gaza from pro-Abbas forces and ousted Fatah, but the PNA, headed by Abbas, prides itself as the legitimate sponsor of Gaza and that any agreement involving the territory should go through the PNA.
Rizka said that for the time being, Hamas can at least accept exchanging goods with Egypt via Rafah border crossing, which is now operating for the usage of individuals only. "And then, when the reconciliation (with Fatah) happens, the trade zone can be established."
Hamas says the free trade, industrial zone constitute an alternative to the smuggling operations beneath Gaza's southern border with Sinai. Gaza and Egypt are connected by a thousand or so tunnels, used to transport goods. The tunnels are under the supervision and regulation of Hamas, and are tacitly allowed by Egypt.
But Egypt launched a military crackdown against the tunnels following Aug. 05 attack that killed at least 16 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula, destroying dozens of them.