EU monitors flee Rafah border crossing

Rash of kidnappings of foreigners, violent protests in Gaza cause concern.

rafah crossing 298 (photo credit: AP [file])
rafah crossing 298
(photo credit: AP [file])
For the second time in the past four months European Union monitors fled the Rafah Border Crossing, on the Gaza-Israel border, on Tuesday, for fear of being kidnapped or harmed, Palestinian sources reported. The fears arose following a day of violent protests and a rash of kidnappings of foreigners in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians in Gaza were protesting the decision by US and British monitors to leave their posts at a Jericho prison. Israel entered the prison compound and was still laying siege to it until the killers of former minister Rehavam Ze'evi, who are in the prison, were caught or killed. The Rafah Crossing was presently being operated by Palestinians only, which goes against the deal reached by Israel and the PA regarding the crossing, which stated that EU monitors must be present when the crossing is operational. Last December the EU monitors fled across the border into Israel, and were given refuge by the IDF at the Kerem Shalom military base. Earlier Tuesday Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz ordered the army to shut down the Karni goods crossing in northern Gaza on Tuesday, after imminent threats of plans by terrorists to attack soldiers and Israeli civilians were received. Mofaz is expected to make a decision on the issue later Tuesday, however, security officials said that due to the situation in the region it is more than likely that the crossing will remain closed. Security sources said that new information received by the security establishment pointed to concrete threats by terrorists to launch attacks. The sources stressed that the threats related to new plans, and not those of a tunnel packed with explosives that terrorists intended to blow up on the Israeli side of the crossing, which were received some weeks ago. Since February, the crossing has been closed due to terror warnings, as well as the failure of the Palestinian Authority to act and thwart the terrorists' plans. Up until now the PA have rejected Israel's offer to use the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Gaza or the Sufa workers crossing in central Gaza as temporary alternatives until the terror threat is lifted. "The Palestinians have brought it on themselves," a security source told The Jerusalem Post. According to security officials, while there is no danger of Palestinians in Gaza suffering from starvation, they are suffering from price hikes on certain food products. "It is inconceivable that the PA prefer to allow their people to suffer instead of taking up Israel's offer to use alternative crossings into Gaza until the terror threats are lifted. It is clearly a political decision on their part," the source said. According to the source, regulations at Karni allow Israel to charge for each truck entering Gaza. Fifty percent of the sum is later given to the PA. However, at Sufa and Kerem Shalom, Israel is not legally bound by such a law, and therefore cannot charge the trucks. This means that PA officials would not receive any money, as Israel is unable to charge. "This appears to be the real reason for their refusal, as interested Palestinian parties will not receive payment that they have received from us at Karni," the source said.