Hamas shuns bid to give Rafah to PA

Group also rejects Egyptian proposal to deploy int'l troops in Gaza in context of new cease-fire agreement with Israel.

Rafah waiting great 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Rafah waiting great 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas has rejected an Egyptian proposal to place the Rafah border crossing under forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas officials said Wednesday. Hamas also rejected an Egyptian proposal to deploy international troops in the Gaza Strip in the context of a new cease-fire agreement with Israel, the officials added. The Egyptian proposals are backed by a number of Arab and EU countries, they said. Hamas officials, meanwhile, continued to issue contradictory statements regarding their readiness to reach a new cease-fire with Israel. Hamas leaders in Syria and Lebanon said they would not agree to a long-term truce because they wanted to "preserve the right to respond to Israeli violations and aggression." But their colleagues in the Gaza Strip sounded more optimistic. Ahmed Yussef, an adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said he did not rule out the possibility of reaching a cease-fire agreement "within 48 hours." He said Hamas would stop firing rockets at Israel once the IDF halted its military operation in the Gaza Strip. Yussef added that any cease-fire agreement should include the reopening of the border crossings and an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip. In Cairo, Egyptian Intelligence Chief Gen. Omar Suleiman met with Hamas representatives to discuss the latest proposals and ways of ending the violence in the Gaza Strip. Suleiman reportedly told the Hamas delegation - whose members included Imadal-Alami and Muhammad Nasser - that Egypt would not reopen the Rafah border crossing unless Abbas's forces were allowed to return to the terminal. The border crossing fell into Hamas's hands after its operatives managed to kick Abbas's security force out of the area in the summer of 2007. Suleiman also urged the Hamas delegation to agree to the presence of international troops in some areas of the Gaza Strip, warning that failure to comply would have "serious repercussions" on the region. Suleiman and other Egyptian government officials expressed outrage over allegations made by some Hamas leaders to the effect that the Egyptians had given Israel a green light to attack the Gaza Strip. Sources close to Hamas in the Gaza Strip expressed disappointment with the Egyptian stance. They said the Egyptians were behaving as if Hamas "were not a major player." The sources said the Egyptians were still hoping that Abbas and former Fatah security chief Muhammad Dahlan would be able to regain control over the Gaza Strip. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said his movement opposed the return of Abbas's loyalists to the border crossing in accordance with a US-brokered agreement reached in 2005. The accord also called for the deployment of international monitors at the terminal and allowed Israel to monitor the movement of Palestinian travelers. Barhoum said the border crossing should be under the exclusive control of the Palestinians and Egyptians. Osama Hamdan, Hamas's representative in Lebanon, said the idea of deploying international troops in the Gaza Strip was "aimed at protecting Israel." Hamas's armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, also rejected the idea of deploying international troops in the Gaza Strip. It said Hamas would consider such troops a hostile and occupying force and would therefore launch attacks against them.