Rafah crossing briefly reopened

Gaza-Egypt crossing unopened due to Israeli security alert.

haniyeh speaks 298 88ap (photo credit: AP)
haniyeh speaks 298 88ap
(photo credit: AP)
The Gaza Strip's main gateway with the world briefly reopened Friday, but an Israeli security alert prevented European monitors from bringing the border terminal to full capacity. The Gaza-Egypt border has been closed for most of the past three days, leaving hundreds of Palestinians stranded on either side of the Rafah crossing. European monitors, who had begun passing through the Israel-Gaza passage on Friday afternoon, were to have Rafah reopened before evening, Nigel Milverton, spokesman for the monitors, said. Under a US-brokered deal, the Gaza-Egypt border can only operate when European monitors are present. The Israel-Gaza Kerem Shalom crossing, used by the monitors to get to Rafah, was closed Thursday due to a security alert, forcing the Palestinians to shut down the border with Egypt. The army said the alert had not been lifted. Israel opened the border only to allow the monitors to pass through. It was unclear whether Kerem Shalom would also be opened on Saturday to allow the monitors to cross, the army said. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas condemned the closing of Rafah. "This is part of the pressure on the Palestinian people," Haniyeh told reporters. "There is no excuse, there is no justification for closing it. The Europeans should come and the crossing should operate." Israel turned over Rafah to Palestinian control after it withdrew from the Gaza Strip. Under the terms of the border deal, Europeans monitor the crossing, which is operated by the Palestinians. Israel observes the crossing with cameras, and can raise security concerns about travelers deemed dangerous. Rafah is a source of great pride for the Palestinians, who during 38 years of occupation have not controlled any international crossing or been able to travel without undergoing stringent Israeli security checks. In addition, Rafah is the only way for residents of the crowded Gaza Strip to leave the coastal area. The crossing has most recently been used to smuggle millions of dollars of cash into Gaza. Cabinet ministers in the Hamas-led government have brought money in suitcases into Gaza to bypass an international boycott that has made it impossible for the Palestinian Authority to pay three months of salaries to some 165,000 employees. Israel, the United States and other Western countries have said they will not lift the sanctions unless Hamas recognizes Israel, renounces terrorism and accepts past peace agreements. Hamas has so far rejected all the demands.