GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — The Islamist Hamas movement ruling Gaza on Tuesday condemned Egypt's arrest of one of its top officials, calling it an "extremely dangerous" move by Cairo.
"We view these actions as extremely dangerous," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum told reporters in Gaza, referring to the arrest of Mohammed Dababesh at Cairo airport last week.
"When we contacted Egyptian authorities we were surprised by the procrastination and delay which could endanger the lives of our brothers like Dababesh... The Egyptian authorities have yet to justify this behaviour."
Dababesh, believed to be the head of internal security in Hamas's Gaza enclave, was "suspected of involvement in activities harmful to Egyptian state security," Egypt's state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported Monday.
He had tried to smuggle "a significant quantity of sophisticated telecommunications equipment" and was suspected of being involved in the January shooting of an Egyptian policeman along the Gaza border, it said.
But Barhum denied the allegations, saying the arrest was a "real mockery of Egyptian-Palestinian relations" and calling on Egypt to release Dababesh and other Palestinian prisoners detained in recent months.
He did not elaborate on Dababesh's precise role in Hamas, saying only that he was an "official person" who was involved in past rounds of negotiations with the rival Palestinian Fatah faction.
Barhum also said Dababesh was returning from a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and not Hamas's headquarters in exile in Damascus, as Al-Ahram had reported.
Relations between Egypt and Hamas have soured since the most recent attempt by Cairo to broker a unity agreement between the rival factions collapsed late last year.
Hamas has accused Egypt of arresting and torturing several of its members, while Egypt indirectly accused Gaza militants of infiltrating its Sinai peninsula to fire rockets at Israel in August.
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