ismail haniyeh_311 reuters.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Tuesday encouraged Palestinians using the recently opened Rafah border crossing with Egypt to respect Egyptian authorities and security forces by not engaging in any activities that could potentially threaten newly eased restrictions on the crossing, Al Jazeera reported.
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Haniyeh, speaking at the dedication ceremony for a monument in Gaza to the nine Turks who were killed last year when IDF forces intercepted the Mavi Marmara, said "We assure the authorities in Egpyt that your security is our security, and your stability is our stability in helping remove the seige [on Gaza] and liberate the land and restore our rights."
Haniyeh also said that Egypt was exercising its free will and affirming its sovereignty over the Rafah crossing, solidifying it as an integral strategic partner in the Palestinian cause.
Last Saturday, for the first time ever, Egypt allowed women, children, and men under 18 and over 40 to cross the Rafah border without a visa. Men between the ages of 18 and 40 still require a visa.
Despite the opening of the border crossing, Israel continued to maintain an official silence, with neither the Prime Minister's Office nor the Foreign Ministry making any formal statements on the matter. Israel's
primary concern is that the crossing will not be used to smuggle more
weapons into Gaza. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said during his
visit to Washington last week that there were currently some 10,000 missiles in Gaza, some of which could reach beyond Tel Aviv.
While former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was in power, the border crossing was largely closed to human traffic, with those seeking to cross requiring specially issued permits. Tensions at the crossing reached a peak in 2008 when Hamas activists bulldozed and breached the border
in order to enter Egyptian territory, mostly to buy food and supplies.
Speaking at the dedicated monument in the strip, Haniyeh criticized Mubarak's government for participating in the Gaza blockade.
He lauded the Egyptian people, saying it was largely because of them that the Rafah crossing was reopened. Herb Keinon contributed to this report.