gaza egypt border 248.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
A day after a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire was dismissed by both Israel and the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip, a new plan was being hatched to reinstitute the Palestinian Authority on the Gaza-Egypt border, according to a report in a British paper.
The Times reported on Saturday morning that the UN diplomats were drawing up a plan to bring in international monitors to police the border crossing which has been a porous entryway for weapons and other smuggled goods until Israel's Operation Cast Lead began 15 days ago.
The IAF has bombed more than 70 smuggling tunnels along the border, nicknamed the Philadelphi Corridor, since the operation began.
EU monitors were previously installed on the border, but fled when Hamas violently wrested the Strip from the hands of the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Since then Egypt, which has been working to tone down the power of the fanatic Muslim Brotherhood inside the country, shut the border on its own side, wary of an emerging terror base affiliated with the Brotherhood on its north eastern border.
According to the new plan, a triangle at the southern end of Gaza, including the Rafah crossing to Egypt and the Kerem Shalom crossing to Israel, would be policed by Turkish and French military monitors to stop arms smuggling into Gaza, while the Strip itself would return to the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.
Somewhat ironically, the plan was being drawn up just as PA President Mahmoud Abbas was officially slated to leave office. Abbas has announced he was not going to step down unless parliamentary elections would be held concurrently to presidential elections, citing the Palestinian constitution.
Hamas in Gaza has been flouting Abbas's authority since its takeover of the Strip, but has announced in reaction to Abbas's declarations that after January 9 it would stop regarding him as the legal head of the West Bank as well.
Nominally, the Philadelphi Corridor would be controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Israel recognizes the PA as the Palestinians' legitimate leadership and is conducting negotiations with the group.
If the plan gains momentum, it would mean the Gaza Strip would be able to import goods and manage a border crossing over ground for the first time since the Hamas coup.
Hamas said it would not allow monitors other than its own men on the side of the border it claims as its own. Egypt too is not very enthusiastic about the prospect of introducing foreign officials to its soil. Israel has issued no official response on the Times report.
The US had been expected to back the UN resolution on Friday but abstained at the last minute. According to the Times, diplomats said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice changed her position after a call from US President George W. Bush. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon expressed regret that Israel had not accepted the ceasefire resolution.