IDF to open crossing despite warnings

Group says it won't allow 6,000 stranded Gazans to return via IDF-run crossing.

Isr Egy border 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Isr Egy border 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Despite Hamas warnings, the IDF plans to open the Kerem Shalom crossing on Tuesday and to begin allowing hundreds of Palestinians stuck in Egypt to return to their homes in the Gaza Strip. Over 6,000 Palestinians have been trapped in Egypt since the June 9 closure of the Gaza-Egypt border as a result of the violent Hamas-Fatah infighting in Gaza. Since the fighting broke out, the Rafah crossing, Gaza's only gateway to the outside world, has been closed. Hamas on Monday reiterated its opposition to the use of Kerem Shalom and in talks with Egypt even threatened to open fire and shell the crossing if it is used in place of the Rafah border terminal. Kerem Shalom, situated on the Egypt-Israel-Gaza triangle, is a three-way crossing that usually facilitates the transfer of supplies and food into Palestinian territory. "We will not give the Israeli occupation this card to increase the pressure on our people," said Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader of Gaza. "The border must remain Palestinian-Egyptian only." But despite the opposition, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) on Monday began reviewing a list with the names and details of the thousands of Palestinians stranded in Egypt to see if any of them were terror suspects whom Israel would not allow back into Gaza. Security officials said the review process would take a number of days. On Tuesday, the Gaza Liaison Administration plans to open Kerem Shalom and begin transferring, on a trial basis, several hundred Palestinians from Egypt to Gaza. The Palestinians will cross from Egypt into Israel, undergo a security inspection at the border terminal by Israel Airports Authority inspectors and will then cross into Gaza, where they will be picked up by local bus drivers hired by the coordinator of government activities in the territories. "There is a humanitarian crisis developing on the Egyptian side of the border that needs to be dealt with," a senior defense official said. "If Hamas shells the crossing, we'll suspend activity and then start again when the attacks stop." On Monday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad said he supported the idea of allowing the travelers to enter Gaza through Kerem Shalom, as a one-time solution to a humanitarian crisis. PA Information Minister Riyad Malki said the vast majority of the travelers were willing to undergo Israeli security checks at the crossing in order to be allowed to go home. Malki said about 280 of those near the border had fled Gaza during the Hamas takeover and did not want to return. Also on Monday, four mortars landed next to the Gaza security fence near the Kerem Shalom crossing. Two Kassam rockets were also fired into Israel. Elsewhere, an elite Border Police unit killed a senior Islamic Jihad operative in Kabatiya, south of Jenin. The operative was identified as Muhammad Naza'al, 23, whom the army said was linked to several attempts to carry out terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Soldiers found three M-16 rifles, a Kalashnikov rifle, explosives and military flak jackets in Naza'al's car.