Egypt: Presence of Abbas forces key to opening Rafah border crossing

Hamas officials dub the announcement a "conspiracy"; Egypt says without Abbas forces, Rafah border crossing will remain closed.

By
September 21, 2013 19:30
2 minute read.
A member of Hamas security forces rides a motorcycle on the border between Egypt and southern Gaza.

Egypt Gaza border 370 . (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Egypt won’t reopen the Rafah border crossing unless forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are allowed to return to the terminal, the PLO ambassador in Cairo, Barakat al-Farra, announced on Saturday.

Hamas said the announcement proved that the Gaza Strip was facing a “conspiracy.”

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Abbas’s presidential guard was in control of the border crossing between 2005 and 2007, when Hamas expelled the PA from the Gaza Strip.

Farra told the Saudi network MBC said that Hamas needed to reconsider its policy toward Egypt and the Egyptian people.

He criticized Hamas for meddling in Egypt’s internal affairs by supporting deposed president Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

On Friday, the Egyptian authorities notified Hamas of their decision to close the Rafah terminal “until further notice.”

The terminal has been closed most of the time since the ouster of Morsi on July 3. Egyptians have since accused Hamas of involvement in terrorist attacks against Egyptian soldiers in Sinai – an allegation the Islamist movement has vehemently denied.

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On Wednesday and Thursday, the Egyptians opened the terminal for four hours each day to allow a few hundred Palestinians to leave or enter the Gaza Strip.

Hamas officials condemned the announcement made by the PLO ambassador in Cairo, saying the closure of the terminal would aggravate the suffering of thousands of patients and university students, as well as Palestinians who need to return to their places of work and their families in various countries.

Ghazi Hamad, a senior official with the Hamas-run Foreign Ministry, described the announcement as irresponsible. The closure of the border would increase the suffering of the people and kill their hope, he said.

Another Hamas official, Salah Bardaweel, said the ambassador’s statements proved there was a “big conspiracy against the Gaza Strip and the resistance.”

He accused the PA leadership of playing a major role in enforcing the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

“The Palestinian Authority and its embassy in Egypt are conspiring against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip,” Bardaweel charged.

But Yusef Rizka, political adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said he did not rule out the possibility of reaching an agreement with the PA on managing the Rafah terminal.

Rizka said that Hamas has been in contact with some countries in a bid to exert pressure on the Egyptians to reopen the terminal.

The Egyptians have cited security reasons to justify the closure of the border crossing, he said.

“We hope that the closure won’t continue for a long period, because that would mean the death of hundreds of stranded patients who are in need of medical treatment,” he said. “The humanitarian situation inside the Gaza Strip is very serious and has reached a dangerous point because of the lack of fuel and basic goods.”

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