Egypt said it was prepared to permanently reopen the Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip under the condition that it would be supervised by the new Palestinian unity government, a senior Egyptian official said Saturday.
The official added that Egypt would request that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reopen the presidential headquarters in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported.
Egypt welcomed the announcement last week that the Fatah-led PLO and Hamas signed a unity government deal, ending a seven-year rift.
According to Ma’an, the Egyptian official said that Hamas must remain separate from the Muslim Brotherhood and not interfere in Egyptian affairs.
After the ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi last summer, Egyptian authorities launched a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, including Hamas.
Cairo has severely restricted access through Rafah — Gaza’s only gateway to the world that is not controlled by Israel — ostensibly for security reasons, and drafted a bill outlawing the digging of tunnels from Egypt, in a further bid to clamp down on the Hamas-backed smuggling activity between the Gaza Strip and northern Sinai.
In March, the Egyptian military declared it had destroyed 1,370 tunnels, but an unknown number of tunnels are still being used to transport food, commodities and arms in and out of the Strip. A report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs from September 2013 claimed that less than 10 tunnels are still operative, as compared to some 300 before June 2013.
On March 4, an Egyptian court designated Hamas as a terror group, ordering the movement’s offices in the country be shut down.
Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.