Monday, February 4, 2008

Egypt Closes Rafah Border

Al-Manar TV reports:

Egyptian and Hamas security forces closed the border between Gaza and Egypt on Sunday, nearly two weeks after resistance fighters blew open the frontier amid as Israeli occupation blockade, a security source and witnesses said. "Security forces have starting closing the border," an Egyptian security source said. "No more Palestinians are being allowed in."

One gate remained open to allow Palestinians to return to Gaza and Egyptians to return home. Other than people returning home, no pedestrians or vehicles were being allowed to cross. Hundreds of thousands of people have streamed across the border since Palestinian fighters blew open and bulldozed large sections of the barrier wall on January 22 after a near week-long Israeli occupation lockdown of the territory.

On Saturday, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, who had returned from talks in Cairo, said his movement would close the border in cooperation with the Egyptian authorities, adding that Cairo has promised to ease the plight of the Palestinians in the Strip by opening the Rafah crossing.

During the talks Hamas officials asked that Egypt provide the Strip with the essential supplies it currently receives through the occupied territories. The Hamas officials made it clear during their talks with Omer Suleiman, Egypt's chief of intelligence, they did not expect this supply line to be humanitarian assistance but commercial deliveries for which they would pay. Hamas sources said the Egyptians did not reject the proposal and promised to consider the option.

However, senior Fatah officials in Ramallah said that Egypt would be hard put to accept the Hamas proposal because of the opposition of the Palestinian Authority and the United States.

Hamas Prime Minister in the Strip Ismail Haniyeh said Saturday that economic ties with Egypt must be strengthened to break free from Israel. "Since the day we were elected [Palestinian national elections February 2006] we have said that we want to progress toward breaking our economic ties with Israel," he said. He stressed that "Egypt is in a much better position [than Israel] to meet the needs of the Gaza Strip."