Ministers warn opening Rafah could be dangerous

Vice premier warns al-Qaida may smuggle weapons into Gaza; Tibi: The world will not tolerate Gazans' humiliation.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN,
May 26, 2011 19:24
2 minute read.
Rafah crossing

rafah 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Vice Premier Silvan Shalom spoke out on Thursday against the opening of the Rafah crossing from Gaza into Egypt, calling for international supervision of the crossing.

Shalom told Israel Radio that Israel must do everything possible to persuade the international community to prevent the opening of the crossing.

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"This is a dangerous development that could lead to the smuggling of weapons, explosives, and al-Qaida agents into Gaza," he said.

Homeland Security Minister Matan Vilna'i also warned that the opening of the Rafah crossing would be very problematic for Israel. But he told Israel Radio that Egypt had not broken any agreements with Israel by opening the crossing.

United Arab List-Ta'al MK Ahmed Tibi welcomed the opening of crossing and urged the IDF to end its naval blockade on the Gaza Strip.

"The opening of the crossing is a direct cause of the new regime in Egypt and the Palestinian reconciliation," Tibi said. "It will do much to ease the naval siege that continues and the difficulties caused by closings at the Erez Crossing. The world cannot tolerate the humiliation of the people of Gaza who do not enjoy the freedom to travel. Perhaps now people who needed medical attention will be able to receive it."

Hamas also lauded Egypt's decision to permanently open the crossing.

"This decision reflects the spirit of revolution in Egypt and the depth of brotherhood between the Palestinian people and the Egyptian people, which has returned itself to its original role in the Palestinian matter," a statement released by Hamas read.

Egypt announced on Wednesday that it plans to open its border with the Gaza Strip "on a daily basis" to "ease entry restrictions for Palestinians."

Under former president Mubarak, Egypt only sporadically opened up the Rafah border crossing for food and medicine, or to let through people, mainly those seeking medical treatment or traveling to study.

"Egyptian authorities have decided to extend the working hours at the Rafah border crossing starting from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on a daily basis, except for Fridays and official holidays, starting on Saturday, May 28," Egyptian news agency MENA said.

It said the decision came as "part of Egyptian efforts to end divisions among Palestinians and to finalize their reconciliation."


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