Hamas fumes as Egypt cuts Rafah crossings to 400 a day

Decision to limit passengers in terminal came as surprise, is unreasonable, Hamas border police official says; Islamists wonder if Abbas behind limitation.

rafah 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
rafah 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas expressed deep disappointment on Thursday with Egypt’s decision to impose restrictions on Palestinians traveling through the Rafah border crossing.
The new restrictions have strained relations between Hamas and Egypt less than a week after the border crossing was reopened.
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Salameh Baraka, director of Hamas’s border crossing police in the Gaza Strip, denounced the restrictions as unreasonable, said they were a setback and called on Cairo to reconsider its move.
He said the Egyptians have decided to limit the number of Palestinian travelers to between 350 and 400 each day.
“The Egyptian decision came as a surprise to us,” Baraka said. “It’s completely unjustified, especially in wake of the joy on both sides of the border at the reopening of the Rafah terminal.”
He added that the Egyptians justified the restrictions by arguing that they were unable to accommodate more than 400 people per day.
“The truth of the matter is that there’s space for more than 1,000 travelers each day,” he said.
On Thursday, the Egyptian authorities allowed only four buses to cross the border, Baraka said.
He said that many Palestinians were furious with the Egyptians, particularly because they were forced to wait for up to seven hours in the heat before receiving permission to enter the terminal.
The Egyptian envoy to the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Othman, denied that the restrictions were the result of external pressure on the Egyptian authorities. He said there was no change in Egypt’s decision to reopen the border crossing and blamed technicalities and logistics for the delays and limits.
Sources close to Hamas said Egypt’s decision to impose restrictions on travelers at the border crossing was taken following PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to Cairo this week.
The sources said they did not rule out the possibility that Abbas had asked the Egyptians to impose the restrictions out of fear that the reopening of the terminal would boost Hamas’s status in the Gaza Strip.
One PA official in Ramallah strongly denied the allegation. Nabil Sha’ath, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, said the reopening of the border crossing was Egypt’s gift to the Palestinians for signing the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation accord.
Sha’ath said he was in touch with Egyptian authorities to help solve “obstacles” facing travelers at the border.

“The establishment of a Palestinian unity government will lead to additional measures to facilitate the movement of individuals and goods at the border crossing,” Sha’ath said.
He accused Israel of violating the 2005 Oslo II agreement between Israel, the PA and the EU concerning the border crossing by banning EU monitors from continuing their work there.
He also accused Israel of failing to abide by the agreement of the transfer of goods across the border and failing to reopen the safe passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.