Threatens closure of Karni, Erez crossings unless Israel gets real-time info at terminals.
By JERUSALEM POST STAFFIsrael cannot accept a situation whereby "complete, accurate and real time information" of Palestinians traveling between Egypt and the Gaza Strip is withheld, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Wednesday during a visit to the Kerem Shalom terminal crossing.
The minister's visit came a day after reports were received that Hamas leader Mahmoud A-Zaher's brother, Fadel, who was deported by Israel 15 years ago, returned to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday.
"The agreement stipulates very clearly that the Palestinian Authority is obliged to supply Israel with accurate real time information regarding the identities of those passing through the terminal," a security official told The Jerusalem Post. "However instead, they give lists of identity numbers without names, usually five to eight minutes late, making it almost impossible to decipher identities and whether they are barred from traveling or not."
According to the agreement, in the event Israel protests the entry of a particular person, the Palestinians are required to detain that person for six hours - a time bracket that will allow Israel and the PA to state their case before the European Monitoring team located at the terminal.
Mofaz warned that if the PA fails to live up to its commitments in accordance with the US-brokered agreement, Israel will shut down the Karni and Erez terminal crossings and later turn them into international border crossings between Israel and Gaza, a step that will have severe economic repercussions for the PA as they will be required to pay customs duties at the terminals on goods marketed out of Gaza and will no longer have a customs union with Israel.
"If the situation does not improve, and the Palestinians fail to cooperate, we will close the Erez and Karni crossings," Mofaz told reporters. "They will become international crossings in all senses and I hope the Palestinians understand the significance of such a step."
Mofaz intends to raise the issue in the coming week with European Union officials and if the PA fails to amend the situation then conclusions will be drawn, security officials said.
Five days since the crossing was officially opened, several thousand Palestinians have passed through the terminal which is yet to become fully operational and is currently open four to five hours each day.
Mofaz was accompanied by OC Southern Command Maj.Gen. Yoav Gallant, head of General Staff Operations Directorate Maj.Gen. Gadi Eizencott, Co-Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.Gen. Yosef Mishlav and Maj.Gen. (Res.) Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's foreign policy department.