Kerem Shalom 298.
(photo credit: IDF)
With the Karni and Rafah crossings closed since Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip last month, the Defense Ministry is expanding the Kerem Shalom terminal, which it plans to turn into the primary pedestrian and cargo entry point into Gaza, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
High-ranking defense officials told the Post on Wednesday that Israel did not plan to allow Rafah to reopen under Hamas control. In the meantime, the officials said that Egypt was cooperating with Israel and had shut down its side of the Rafah border terminal, denying Hamas members the ability to leave Gaza.
The officials harshly criticized the agreement Israel signed with the European Union several months ago under which the Europeans will continue to monitor to the management of the crossing, saying "It was a mistake we cannot allow to be repeated."
"We never had control over the crossing even when the EU monitors were there," a senior defense official said. "We never had the ability to stop anyone and our control over the crossing, despite previous agreements, was extremely limited."
The Defense Ministry's decision to upgrade Kerem Shalom follows an IDF recommendation to turn the once barely-used crossing into the main supply and pedestrian conduit into Gaza.
"We have no intention of allowing Rafah to reopen," the official said, adding that since the crossing was opened in November 2005, hundreds of Palestinian had traveled to Iran and Lebanon for terrorist training.
Adding to the complications in deciding which crossing to use is a power struggle between the IDF, the Defense Ministry and the Israel Airports Authority (IAA) over control of the Sufa crossing, which - with Karni shut down and Kerem Shalom closed due to daily mortar attacks - is currently being used as the main supply crossing.
Since Karni's closure, dozens of IAA employees have been out of work and, according to IAA officials, have mostly "been sent home." The IAA, which charged a toll for every truck that unloaded goods at Karni, has also suffered a slight financial loss since the crossing was closed.
According to defense officials, the Airports Authority has been pressing to gain control of the Sufa crossing, which is currently managed by the IDF and the coordinator of government activities in the territories.
Adding to the tension was a visit the head of the Defense Ministry Crossing Directorate, Bezalel Treiber, paid to Sufa last week. Defense officials said that transfer of control over Sufa from the IDF to Treiber's office was not currently planned but was certainly a possibility in the future.
"Karni is not going to reopen for a long time," a senior defense official said on Wednesday. "Therefore, there is a need to find a more permanent alternative to be able to continue the flow of food and supplies into the Gaza Strip."