(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas expressed deep disappointment on Thursday with Egypt’s decision to impose
restrictions on Palestinians traveling through the Rafah border
The new restrictions have strained relations between Hamas and
Egypt less than a week after the border crossing was reopened.
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Baraka, director of Hamas’s border crossing police in the Gaza Strip, denounced
the restrictions as unreasonable, said they were a setback and called on Cairo
to reconsider its move.
He said the Egyptians have decided to limit the
number of Palestinian travelers to between 350 and 400 each day.
Egyptian decision came as a surprise to us,” Baraka said. “It’s completely
unjustified, especially in wake of the joy on both sides of the border at the
reopening of the Rafah terminal.”
He added that the Egyptians justified
the restrictions by arguing that they were unable to accommodate more than 400
people per day.
“The truth of the matter is that there’s space for more
than 1,000 travelers each day,” he said.
On Thursday, the Egyptian
authorities allowed only four buses to cross the border, Baraka said.
said that many Palestinians were furious with the Egyptians, particularly
because they were forced to wait for up to seven hours in the heat before
receiving permission to enter the terminal.
The Egyptian envoy to the
Palestinian Authority, Yasser Othman, denied that the restrictions were the
result of external pressure on the Egyptian authorities. He said there was no
change in Egypt’s decision to reopen the border crossing and blamed
technicalities and logistics for the delays and limits.
Sources close to
Hamas said Egypt’s decision to impose restrictions on travelers at the border
crossing was taken following PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to Cairo this
The sources said they did not rule out the possibility that Abbas
had asked the Egyptians to impose the restrictions out of fear that the
reopening of the terminal would boost Hamas’s status in the Gaza
One PA official in Ramallah strongly denied the allegation. Nabil
Sha’ath, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, said the reopening of the
border crossing was Egypt’s gift to the Palestinians for signing the Fatah-Hamas
Sha’ath said he was in touch with Egyptian
authorities to help solve “obstacles” facing travelers at the
“The establishment of a Palestinian unity government will lead to
additional measures to facilitate the movement of individuals and goods at the
border crossing,” Sha’ath said.
He accused Israel of violating the 2005
Oslo II agreement between Israel, the PA and the EU concerning the border
crossing by banning EU monitors from continuing their work there.
accused Israel of failing to abide by the agreement of the transfer of goods
across the border and failing to reopen the safe passage between the West Bank
and the Gaza Strip.