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Israel slams Rafah reopening
Published Sunday 29/05/2011 (updated) 30/05/2011 13:06
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Palestinians hold the red, white and black Egyptian flag along with the Palestinian
flag, in support of Egypt at the Rafah border crossing on May 28 after Egypt
reopened the border, allowing people to cross freely for the first time in four
years. Israeli ministers have condemned Cairo's decision, warning terror groups
would be able to move weapons and people freely through the crossing.
[AFP/Said Khatib]
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli ministers on Sunday slammed Egypt's decision to reopen its Rafah border crossing with Gaza, warning that terrorist groups would be able to move weapons and people freely through the crossing.

Israel has warned that reopening the crossing, which Egypt closed to almost all traffic in 2007, would boost Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip and is designated a terror group by Israel, North America and Europe.

"The free movement of people and cargo that will take place is simply going to be used in a more intensive manner to bring in ammunition and military equipment and moreover the free movement of terrorists," Israel's Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau told reporters.

Weapons as well as essential goods are currently brought into Gaza via a network of hundreds of smuggling tunnels, which boomed after Israel imposed its blockade. The largely unregulated trade meant poor-quality foods, goods and materials were sold on the local markets for high prices.

Cairo first announced in April that it planned to reopen the border, after Hamas signed a deal with Fatah, ending a four-year rift.

The closure in 2007 came despite a 2005 agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority under which the European Union agreed to place monitors at the border crossing.

Although Cairo was not a signatory to the accord, Israeli ministers on Sunday accused Egypt of violating the PA-EU deal by reopening the border.

Israel's Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Egypt's decision to reopen the crossing over Israel's objections showed that the Israel could not rely on other nations to protect its borders. The UN and other rights organizations have called the siege on Gaza illegal.

"This is very strong proof of why it is so important for Israel to guard our borders by ourselves to prevent the infiltration of terrorists and weapons," he said at the beginning of a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

He said the border reopening was also proof that Israel needed to maintain control over the Jordan Valley under any peace agreement with the Palestinians, describing the 2005 border deal as "not worth the paper its written on," although it did not cover the eastern border area where the Jordan Valley edges Jordan.

Landau called the reopening a "very regrettable development."

"Agreements signed have to be respected and I wish to see the entire international community saying very clearly this abrogation of the agreement by Egypt cannot be accepted," he added.

Though Egypt was not party to the 2005 deal, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his foreign minister insisted they were obliged to comply with it.

The accord put Rafah under Egyptian and Palestinian control, with the EU observers taking up their positions at the crossing in November 2005 in a bid to prevent the free passage of weapons or personnel into the enclave.

But, seven months later, their mission was abruptly suspended following the capture by Gaza militants of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, prompting Israel to impose a tight blockade on the territory.

The crossing remained largely closed from June 2006 to June 2010, when Egypt partially opened it in the wake of an Israeli raid on a aid flotilla that was trying to reach Gaza, which killed nine Turkish activists.

For Palestinians in Gaza, Cairo's new policy means they can travel freely for the first time in four years, giving Gazans a gateway to the world.

Among the first to cross on Saturday were two ambulances ferrying patients for treatment in Egypt, as well as a minibus carrying a dozen visitors.

"I've been waiting for this for years," said 25-year-old Samah Ar-Rawagh, one of the first 200 to leave the densely populated Palestinian enclave.

"In the past, I tried twice to cross but was turned back both times," he said, adding that his plan was to get to Turkey

Jamal Nijem, 53, whose wife and daughter live in his spouse's native Egypt, was among hundreds who flocked to the border post, but he was unsure whether he would be allowed to cross.

"I came here three years ago to rejoin my family but my Egyptian residency permit had run out because of frequent closures of the crossing, and the security services barred me from going back," he said.

Aman Mahdi, 21, said she hopes her husband will be able to accompany her to Malaysia for medical treatment.

"I've been trying in vain for four months to travel. I am registered, but there have not been any concrete results due to a lack of coordination with the Egyptian authorities. I hope this time we can finally leave," she said.

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1 ) Carol Scheller / Switzerland
29/05/2011 12:01
The Israeli ministers need to read the editorial in today's Haaretz : "Following Rafah, Israel should open West Bank crossings". The Israeli government is not alone in being alienated from its people.

2 ) Lukas / AntiZionist
29/05/2011 12:13
The Rafah crossing is not entirely open. There are restrictions on people who can pass and trade is not allowed.

3 ) miros / arab nation
29/05/2011 12:20
ffffffffffffffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucccccccccccccccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyooooooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiisssssssssssssssssrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal !!!! and usa

4 ) Tony / Swaziland
29/05/2011 12:35
Where are the EU observers Palestinians and Egpytians are signed and must have monitoring the crossing?
Is this what Israel should expect with future agreements signed with Palestinians?
Israel should make concessions for peace wait a couple of years for Palestinians to elect Hamas and than find out those agreements are not worth the paper they were written on?
If you want Israel to take risks for peace Palestinians need to make sure agreements are respected.

5 ) Nour / One-State
29/05/2011 12:38
Apartheid Entity groans and wines. What's new? Ignore them and carry on with building the port, new airport, and generally reconnect the West Bank to Gaza in every way.

6 ) Free Palestine / west Bank
29/05/2011 13:22
Gaza should be FREE and the its people should be welcomed by the whole universe and not only Egypt. Just shame on all other Arab countries and Arab leaders who are afraid of their rights over their lands while exercise all colors of power and torture over their own people. Just SHAME on you our fat leaders.

7 ) Mark ben Josef / USA
29/05/2011 13:45
The Rafah Agreement had a specific time period, referred to in the agreement as the "agreed period." That period was for a single year. It expired and was not renewed as far as any information is available on the Internet. It also called for a passage between the West Bank and Gaza, an airport and a seaport and a specific allowance of goods daily to be allowed in along with exports through Rafah. Israel is in violation of all these if the expired doc was ever renewed. Ask Questions, Ma'an.

8 ) Mark ben Josef / USA
29/05/2011 13:53
Quote from the Rafah Agreement: " These procedures will remain in place for a period of 12 months, unless the 3rd party delivers a negative evaluation of the PA running the Rafah crossing. This evaluation will be done in close coordination with both sides and will give due considerations to the opinion of both sides." It expired

9 ) Ousider / EU
29/05/2011 14:53
Not only do all the initiatives come from people other than the Israeli cabinet, they are determined to shoot them down. Pathetic. The blockade is a failure. At this stage, it is probably hurting Israel as much as Gaza. Perhaps Netanyahu should run back to Obama and act nice for a change? I'd be surprised if Washington was not aware of this before it happened. The tide has changed, Tel Aviv. Better to be ride the waves rather than try and push them back.

10 ) Shaun McKinnon / Australia
29/05/2011 18:29
"Israel has warned that reopening the crossing... would boost Hamas" What will cause more terrorist acts against Israel is the terrorist acts committed by Israel again the Palestinians.

11 ) Julie / USA
29/05/2011 22:00
personally, i think #3 miros said it all :D i would only add my joy that israel is getting slammed even harder...hahaha! yay!!!

12 ) johnny benson / usa
29/05/2011 23:16
now...egypt should take care of the gazan...let them work in egypt..furnish power water other needs hospital care...et al

13 ) Colin Wright / USA
30/05/2011 01:11
Leaving aside the fact that no agreement HAS been violated, it's comic to hear Israel supporters complaining about violated agreements. When has Israel ever honored an agreement?
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