Hamas ready to cede border control

Haniyeh, Mashaal willing to negotiate with PA, Egypt; PA minister: Hamas trying to reap "political gains."

Mashaal 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Mashaal 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas's exiled leader said Wednesday his group was willing to work with Egypt and his rivals in the Palestinian Authority to bring order to the chaotic situation on the Egypt-Gaza border. The comments by Khaled Mashaal, political bureau head of Hamas, came shortly after tens of thousands of Gazans poured into Egypt across the Rafah border crossing. Overnight, Palestinian gunmen had blown holes in the border wall, allowing the influx. "We in the Hamas movement and our brothers in the Palestinian government headed by Ismail Haniyeh declare our readiness to reach an understanding with the brothers in Ramallah (Palestinian Authority) and the brothers in Egypt on how to manage those crossings," Mashaal said at a three-day conference of Syria-based Palestinian factions opposed to peace with Israel. More than 1,500 people attended the conference, aimed at boosting national unity. "We don't want to control anything. We want liberty and relief for our Palestinian people," Mashaal said. He also called for the Gaza border crossings with Egypt to be purely controlled by Palestinians and Egyptians. "The most important standard for lifting the siege on Gaza is that the Rafah crossing be opened and be purely under the Palestinians and Egyptians without any blackmail," he said. Later Wednesday, Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Haniyeh called for "an urgent speedy meeting" in Egypt to work out a new shared arrangement for Gaza's border crossings. Under a 2006 agreement after Israel pulled out of Gaza, the Palestinian Authority was left in charge of the crossings but with monitors from the European Union supervising. Israel also had cameras and computers installed there to monitor and vet who should cross. That agreement collapsed when Hamas took over Gaza in June. Mashaal said international agreements can be abrogated and noted that Egypt was not a signatory to the 2006 border agreement. As if urging Egypt and Arabs to ignore the agreement, he pointed out that Egypt had in the past nationalized the Suez Canal and Gulf states had nationalized their oil industry. "I am addressing all the Arabs: Don't say it as an excuse that there is an international agreement concerning the Rafah crossing," he said. Directly addressing the Egyptians, he said: "This (agreement) is not binding on you nor on our people." He said Israel's partial lifting of the blockade was a "plot to absorb the Arab and Palestinian wrath" and called on Arab countries to help lift the siege of Gaza. "No one can believe that you can't lift the siege ... don't deceive yourselves." He urged the Arab League foreign ministers' meeting scheduled for Sunday in Cairo to call for lifting the siege on Gaza, which he called the "biggest prison in history." "Any other decision is unacceptable," he added. Ramadan Shallah, who heads the Islamic Jihad movement, called on the Palestinian Authority to immediately stop what he said were "nonsense and farce" negotiations with Israel.