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Egypt FM: Rafah border to open permanently
Published Friday 29/04/2011 (updated) 01/05/2011 11:58
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A Hamas security officer guards as Palestinians wait to pass into Egypt
through the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip on March 1,
2010. [MaanImages/Hatem Omar]
DUBAI (AFP) -- Egypt will permanently open the Rafah border crossing to ease the blockade on Gaza, Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi said Friday.

Arabi said in an interview with Al-Jazeera his country would take "important steps to help ease the blockade on Gaza in the few days to come," according to the Arabic-language satellite channel.

He said Egypt would no longer accept that the Rafah border -- Gaza's only crossing that bypasses Israel -- remain blocked, describing his country's decision to seal it off as "shameful."

The move sparked Israeli concerns over the implications for regional security.

In Jerusalem, a senior Israeli official said the state is "very concerned" about the implications of the Rafah crossing being thrown open.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the Israeli official said Gaza's Hamas rulers had already build up a "dangerous military machine" in northern Sinai which could be further strengthened by opening the border.

"We are very concerned about the situation in northern Sinai where Hamas has succeeded in building a dangerous military machine, despite Egyptian efforts to prevent that," he told AFP, without giving further details.

"What power could they amass if Egypt was no longer acting to prevent that build up?"

Earlier this week, unknown assailants in northern Sinai blew up a gas pipeline supplying Israel and Jordan in what was the second time it had been sabotaged in 10 weeks.

It is still unclear who was behind the attacks, and the official would not be drawn on whether Israel was implicating Hamas.

But the fact that the new regime in Cairo was seeking to upgrade its ties with Gaza's Hamas rulers and was also seeking to better ties with long-time foe Iran, was an issue which could have strategic implications for Israel's national security, the source said.

"We are troubled by the developments in Egypt, by the voices calling to annul the peace treaty, by the rapprochement between Egypt and Iran, and by the upgrading of relations between Egypt and Hamas. These developments potentially have strategic implications for Israel's national security."

The move was announced a day after Hamas reached a surprise reconciliation deal with its Fatah rivals which control the Palestinian Authority, in a development which stirred anger and concern in Israel.

"The recent developments have been very worrying," he said, without elaborating.

The Rafah border is the only way in and out of Gaza which does not pass through Israel.

It 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.

Egypt has actively supported Israel's blockade, frequently coming in for harsh regional criticism for keeping the border closed and for building an underground wall in a bid to curb smuggling, which it views as a security risk.

But earlier this year, mass street protests in Egypt led to the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak, with the new military regime keen to review its policy on Gaza.

Opening the border without any international supervision is likely to be a breach of 2005 agreement between Israel and Egypt which was brokered by the United States.

Under terms of the deal, the crossing would be under Egyptian and Palestinian control, with European observers and Israeli camera surveillance.

Israel fears that an open border would allow the free passage of weapons and personnel into Gaza.

Since the 2007 border closure, Gaza's 1.5 million people have relied on a web of tunnels beneath the Rafah border for most of their needs.
1 ) Philip / Ireland
29/04/2011 11:15
Egypt has in effect 'torn up' the Agreement on Movement and Access which in actual terms handed control of the Rafah crossing to Israel since 2005. The 'Agreement' was used and abused by Israel to veto opening of the Rafah crossing at any time. Examination of UN records will demonstrate that since June 2006 - the capture of Gilad Shalit - Rafah had been opened on very few occasions for any length of time, and since June 2007 when Hamas seized control of Gaza, the situation worsened considerably

2 ) Tobias / US
29/04/2011 15:00

This is a great decision !!

It frees Israel from the responsibility of operating crossings,
and makes Egypt again responsible for Gaza !!!

However, the people may suffer if the Egyptian crossing allow a major flow of weapons, that will inevitably lead to a Gaza-Israel war !!!

3 ) marge / US
29/04/2011 17:51
Kudos to the Egyptian leadership for taking refusing to allow Egypt to continue its partnership with Apartheid, Zionazi Israel to keep Gaza blockaded and isolated from the world. The new Egypt is one the Middle East and world can be proud of, and appears to be headed toward reclaiming its historical greatness. The younger generation of Egyptians are the pioneers of this change and have my deepest admiration and respect. They have set an example for the world to follow.

4 ) Mary / US
29/04/2011 18:04
I think t here should be a 2 state solution along the pre-1967 war borders if not Resolution 181. I also strongly believe Arabs in Israel should have equal rights - and that no one in the international community should accept Israeli discrimination in their country. No weapons, no aid, no trade!!! Boycott Israel.

5 ) izzy / usa
29/04/2011 23:01
MARY- do you also belive that jews in arab countries should also have equal rights? ..........wait......thats right......they dont allow jews in arab ruled countries.

6 ) Joe Fattal / USA
29/04/2011 23:14
@2) Tobias/US Wrong. That would lead to an Egyptian-Israeli war. And now that Mubarak is gone the chances for another war are good not that I want another one, but Israel will have to fight the Egyptians, this time about 80 millions of them.

7 ) Arnold / Canada
30/04/2011 00:09
Good move by Egypt. Now the flow of arms can be in plain sight rather than underground. Easier for the IDF to monitor.

8 ) Julie / USA
30/04/2011 17:57
BRAVO to Egypt for being the FIRST ones to END the ILLEGAL blockade on Gaza!!!! poor little israeli Z-nazis will be forced to learn that they can NOT dictate another country's policies or agreements. this is the will of the egyptian PEOPLE. the PEOPLE worldwide are fed up with the CRIMINAL brutality of the israeli regime. wake up call to israel: you can NOT stop the will of the people ANYWHERE...got that??? the world has spoken and is FINALLY taking ACTION against israeli terrorism. BRAVO!!!

9 ) M.K / Sweden
30/04/2011 19:10
Arnold, what guarantees that the flow of arms doesnt come from the tunnels which still exist? Face it. Egypt is an ally of the palestinians, and NOT Israel. Israel is in big trouble now, haha :) Long live the new great Egypt!

10 ) Ibrahim / Australia
01/05/2011 02:12
HI Izzy, Palestinians would be more than happy if they enjoy 20% of the rights enjoyed by Jews in Arab countries. Israel is represented in every Arab country including the Gulf States. Bahrain has a Jewish Consul in one of the States in the USA. Simon Peres travelled and visited most Arab countries.
So please stop the 50 years old propaganda, we have the internet now, just in case you forgot ...


11 ) Ibrahim / Australia
01/05/2011 02:18
Tobias/US - the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is with us today because of the unconditional and unlimited flow of weapons to Israel and to the region. Hamas weapons is no comparison to the Israeli nuclear weapons. Lets not compare a toy gun in Hamas hands with the guns in the hands of the 4th strongest army in the world, Israeli army.
In the absence of real move towards peace, war is a natural result. Let us stop delivering weapons to all sides and not target one side.
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