Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hamas Warns of Israeli Conspiracy over Rafah Crossing

Al-Manar TV reports:

The Islamic Resistance Movement of Hamas has dismissed as an Israeli-led conspiracy PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's proposal to deploy his own, Western-trained forces at the Rafah crossing along with the EU monitors.

Palestinian Authority said Monday that it had reached a deal with Egypt to take control of the Gaza border. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu-Zuhri dismissed the proposal, calling it an "Israeli-led international conspiracy with the participation of some regional parties" which would exclude them from controlling the border. "We tell all parties that we will not allow the return of old conditions at the crossing," Abu-Zuhri said.

Interim Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad asked Hamas not to "interfere", saying "they should just simply get out of the way and allow this to happen''.

In Rafah, however, it was Hamas forces that were very much in control, working closely with Egyptian border guards and riot police to seal one of the three breaches and organize traffic at the other two. "There has been continuous and direct cooperation with Egyptian security officials over the last couple of days,'' said a Hamas security official. "They asked us to only allow trucks to enter and not civilian cars to make the operation as orderly as possible".

Hamas insists on having a say in the administration of the border, the opening of which has given it a tremendous lift among inhabitants of Gaza who have been sealed off from the outside world for the past two years. "Hamas affirms that the time of (Israeli) siege is over, and it will not allow any party to bring back our people to the cage,'' Abu Zuhri said.

Taher Nunu, another Hamas government spokesman, earlier said that "no one can exclude the (Hamas) government here from the crossing arrangements or any other issue. This is the legitimate government''.

Some form of agreement on who controls the border may come on Wednesday when a Hamas delegation will hold separate meetings with Egyptian officials in Cairo. A delegation of Hamas, representing the Islamic movement's politburo Chief and the government based in Gaza, will visit Egypt Wednesday for discussions over border crossing points, the Hamas spokesman said Monday. "The visit comes upon an Egyptian invitation and following contacts between the movement and the Egyptian leadership," Abu Zuhri said.

Representatives of the Palestinian Authority will not participate in the talks because they refuse to deal with Hamas. Abbas plans to run Gaza crossings but excluding Hamas in the process. Abbas' plan adopts a US-brokered deal, signed in November 2005, to open Rafah crossing on the Gaza-Egypt borders with European Union monitoring as the third party and pro-Abbas security services taking control of the Palestinian side of the passages.

But Abu Zuhri said his movement endorses "a new mechanism and new arrangements to open the crossing," stressing that the international agreement on Rafah "was something from the past." "What we need is a Palestinian-Egyptian crossing point... Hamas will present its vision in this regard to Egypt," Abu Zuhri added.