'Israel, Egypt meet on Gaza status'

Secret Israeli delegation relayed concern of weapons smuggling through Rafah, Arab paper says.

amos gilad 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
amos gilad 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
An Israeli defense delegation secretly visited Cairo on Monday and discussed the situation in Rafah with top Egyptian officials in a five-hour meeting, the London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper reported Tuesday. According to the report, the delegation - led by the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Military Bureau head Amos Gilad - relayed to Egypt Israel's fears that Palestinian terrorists would smuggle weapons and explosives through Egypt's open border with the Gaza Strip. While the Egyptians expressed understanding for Israel's concerns, they stressed that Israel was the one responsible for the deterioration of the situation in the Gaza Strip and the eventual breaching of the border wall. In the wake of the chaos on the Gaza-Sinai border, the EU foreign ministers said Monday that the EU would "consider resuming its monitoring mission at Rafah." Under a US-brokered agreement on access and movement hammered out in November 2005, the EU monitored the Rafah Crossing, along with Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, until the team was withdrawn after the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday night the Palestinian Authority should have a role in policing the border. During a press conference with visiting Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, Rice said Washington wants to see order restored along the Egyptian border with Gaza. The EU foreign ministers, following a meeting in Brussels, called "on all parties to work urgently for the controlled reopening of the crossings in and out of Gaza for both humanitarian reasons and commercial flows." The foreign ministers also backed a proposal for the PA to take control of the crossings that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is set to discuss with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on Wednesday. Although Israel has not yet formulated an official stance on whether it backs PA control of the crossings, Israeli officials said that if Abbas and Mubarak were to come to an agreement on this, Israel would not "be an obstacle." Herb Keinon contributed to this report.