Arab media outlets report that Hamas, including the head of the organization's security apparatus, have assumed responsibility for managing the Rafah crossing.
On Sunday, in a surprise move, the Palestinian Authority announced that it has decided to pull out all its employees from the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.The decision, which is effective Monday morning, was taken in response to Hamas's "measures," the PA said in a statement published by its Civilian Affairs Administration.The decision will result in the closure of the terminal weeks after the Egyptians agreed to keep it open on a daily basis.The move came after Hamas reportedly arrested dozens of Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip in the past few days. Fatah officials said at least 500 of their men were taken into custody by Hamas. The Hamas crackdown came as Fatah prepared to hold a rally in the Gaza Strip marking the 54th anniversary of the launching of its first armed attacks against Israel. The statement said that the decision to withdraw the PA employees from the Rafah terminal "came in light of the brutal practices of the de facto gangs in our beloved Gaza Strip" - a reference to the Hamas authority in the coastal enclave.The statement accused Hamas of obstructing the work of the PA employees at the Rafah border crossing, but did not elaborate. Hamas, the statement added, "insists on solidifying the split [between the West Bank and Gaza Strip] by arresting and harassing our employees. We have reached the conclusion that the presence of our employees there is no longer effective." The decision to pull out the PA employees from the Rafah terminal came two days after PA President Mahmoud Abbas met in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi. It was not clear on Sunday night wether the decision had received the approval of Sisi.Hamas and other Palestinian groups immediately condemned the PA decision and said it was in the context of Abbas's sanctions on the Gaza Strip. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that the decision was part of Abbas's effort to separate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank in order to pave the way for the implementation of US President Donald Trump's yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East. The decision, he said, also reflects the "bankruptcy" of Abbas and his senior officials and is a severe blow to Egypt's efforts to end the dispute between Abbas's ruling Fatah faction and Hamas.