(photo credit: Associated Press [file])
The Rafah border crossing, the Gaza Strip's gateway to the world since its opening on November 25, was closed Wednesday for the first time because of an IDF security alert.
Nigel Milverton, a spokesman for the European Union Border Assistance Mission Rafah (EU BAM), said the group was informed at 5:30 a.m. that because of a security alert, the IDF would not open the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing.
That crossing is used by the EU monitors to go to the Rafah crossing and it is also the site of a liaison office manned by EU, Palestinian Authority and Israeli officials. Milverton said that the liaison office was closed because of the alert, and since all the data from the Rafah crossing is processed at the liaison office, its closure meant that the Rafah crossing needed to be closed as well.
Milverton said the situation was reevaluated throughout the day, and it was decided to keep the crossing shut.
The alert came because of threats by the Aksa Martyrs' Brigades to carry out a revenge attack for the botched IAF raid that killed three children in Gaza on Tuesday.
Milverton said it was not clear whether the crossing would be opened on Thursday.
He said that the team did not question the IDF's motives.
"If the IDF says they have a security alert in the area, it is not our job to question or read anything into it," he said.
The decision to close the crossing was slammed by the far-left GUE/NGL Group in the European parliament.
One of its parliamentarians, Luisa Morgantini, chair of the European Parliament's development committee, issued a statement saying: "The closure of the Rafah crossing, the only way out to the external world from the Gaza Strip, clearly proves that the Palestinian population continues to be under the will of the unilateral decisions taken by the Israeli government and continues to be closed in a cage from a cruel master that throws food inside depending on its humor."
Morgantini called on the EU to "instruct Israel" to give free access to the European observers.