Hamas govt says to privatize Gaza crossings
Published Sunday 23/02/2014 (updated) 26/02/2014 17:25
Palestinian children carry placards during a rally in front of the Rafah
border crossing with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip on Jan. 29, 2014
GAZA CITY (AFP) -- The Hamas government has said it plans to let private contractors take over the running of the Palestinian territory's border crossings with Egypt and Israel.
"The government is to give the private sector the opportunity to handle the technical management of crossing points from the Gaza Strip," Hamas deputy prime minister Ziad al-Zaza told AFP on Saturday and said that a commission of seven businessmen would be dedicated to the project.
"Supervision of all terminals will be under government control," said Zaza, who is also finance minister.
The coastal strip, whose air and sea lanes are blocked by Israel, has three land crossings; Erez and Kerem Shalom with Israel and Rafah with Egypt.
Kerem Shalom is for goods only, while Erez and Rafah are for passenger traffic.
Although Hamas ousted the western-backed Palestinian Authority from Gaza in 2007 PA officials continue to coordinate the work of the crossings with Israel.
Israel does not have direct political or economic ties with Hamas which it defines as "a terrorist organisation."
Hamas MPs, who hold the majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament -- met in special session in a tent at Rafah on Sunday to demand that Egypt lift border crossing restrictions.
"We are here in front of the Rafah terminal to ask our brothers in Egypt to open Rafah to goods and persons," deputy parliament speaker Ahmad Bahar said.
Egypt imposed the restrictions as part of a campaign by its security forces against "jihadists" in the lawless Sinai Peninsula, which borders Gaza and Israel.
Exit through Israel is strictly controlled, with permits mainly limited to "medical and humanitarian" cases.
Entry of goods to Gaza from Israel is also limited, with passage barred to a range of "controlled items" which Israel deems could be used by militants to make weapons or build fortifications.