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Report: Egypt working with Israel on Rafah policy

May 27, 2011 10:22 A.M. (Updated: May 28, 2011 11:49 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Egypt has explained to Israel that the Rafah crossing will not be used to transfer goods, and restrictions will be imposed on the movement of individuals, Israel radio reported Thursday.

According to political sources quoted in the report, Egyptian authorities are aware of the risk that "terrorist elements" could pass through Rafah, the sole non-Israeli entrance point, and Cairo will act accordingly.

Egypt said Wednesday it would open the crossing on a daily basis in a bid to ease the blockade.

The measure, which will come into force Saturday, will give Gazans a gateway to the world as Rafah is the only crossing which does not pass through Israel.

The frontier will now be opened for eight hours a day from 9:00 a.m., with the exception of Fridays and public holidays, Egypt's official MENA news agency said.

Until now, it had been open only intermittently, mainly for Palestinians who can prove humanitarian need.

Gaza's Hamas rulers on Thursday welcomed as "courageous" an Egyptian decision to open permanently the crossing between the two territories.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum hailed the move as "a courageous and responsible decision which falls in line with Palestinian and Egyptian public opinion."

"We hope that it is a step towards the complete lifting of the siege on Gaza," he said in a statement, calling on the world "to follow Egypt's example" in breaking the Israeli blockade which has been in place since 2006.

Plans to open the crossing on a permanent basis were first announced at the end of April, a day after Hamas reached a surprise reconciliation deal with its Fatah rivals who control the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

The decision to open the border has deeply worried Israel, with Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai telling Israeli public radio it would create "a very problematic situation."

The Rafah crossing has remained largely shut since June 2006 when Israel imposed a tight blockade on the territory after militants there snatched Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is still being held.

The blockade was tightened a year later when the Islamist Hamas movement seized control of the territory, ousting forces loyal to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

Israel took steps to ease the measure last summer following a wave of international pressure after its troops staged a botched raid on an aid flotilla which was trying to break the embargo, killing nine Turkish activists.
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