EU officials ready to return to Rafah

22 new staffers expected in Ashkelon; EU spokeswoman: We're eager to get back to crossing.

Rafah border  224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Rafah border 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
In the hope that it will soon be able to return to its former monitoring role at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the European Union Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) plans to send 22 new staff people to its Ashkelon headquarters. Four new staff members arrived in Ashkelon on Saturday and 30 more are on standby, according to EUBAM spokeswoman Maria Telleria. "We are eager to get back to the crossing," she told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday evening. From November 2005 and until the Hamas coup of Gaza in June 2007, EUBAM monitored the passage of people from Gaza into Egypt at the Rafah crossing. After the coup, however, it suspended its operation at the crossing, but left a skeleton crew of 18 people in Ashkelon, which at times dropped down to 12 or 13 people. In the interim, the head of the mission Lt.-Gen. Pietro Pistolese left and was replaced by Col. Alain Faugeras of France in November. With negotiations ongoing to reinstitute the 2005 agreement on movement and access which placed the Palestinian Authority on the Gaza side of the crossing, EUBAM wants to be prepared to return, said Telleria. But it could only happen if there was a return to that 2005 agreement, she said. "In principle everything is ready," she said but it could take another 10 to 15 days, however to solve logistical and infrastructure problems at the crossing, she added. "As far as we know there has been some damage to the terminal," she said. But that wouldn't stop EUBAM from returning almost immediately once an agreement was reached regarding Rafah, she said. "We can be deployed in 24-hours," she said.