Egypt bars entry from Gaza after PA troops leave crossing, Hamas takes over
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Egypt bars entry from Gaza after PA troops leave crossing, Hamas takes over

Cairo informs Strip’s terror leaders it will only allow travelers into the territory, after forces loyal to Abbas withdraw, citing mistreatment

Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas stand guard at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, on January 7, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)
Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas stand guard at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, on January 7, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Egypt will keep its crossing with the Gaza Strip closed to departures from the Palestinian enclave after the Palestinian Authority withdrew its officials amid disagreements with Hamas.

Gaza’s Interior Ministry, controlled by the Hamas terror group, said Monday that Egyptian officials notified them that the crossing would only be open to those entering the Gaza Strip.

Hamas handed over control of the Rafah crossing to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority as part of a 2017 reconciliation deal, which did not ultimately succeed. On Sunday, the Palestinian Authority withdrew its personnel from the crossing.

The withdrawal came as tensions are building between Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party. The Palestinian Authority said Hamas arrested border officials and Fatah supporters in Gaza to prevent them from holding a rally marking the movement’s founding anniversary.

The PA’s civil affairs authority had on Sunday accused Hamas of “summoning, arresting and abusing our employees,” leading it to conclude that their presence was futile, according to official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

The PA said that, until further notice, it will withdraw its staff from the Rafah border terminal, which is used by travelers moving to and from Egypt.

Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas walk in the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on January 7, 2019. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Hamas, a terror group committed to Israel’s destruction, seized control of Gaza in 2007, in a near civil war with Abbas’s Fatah party.

But the PA took control of Rafah in November 2017, as part of a deal for Egypt to reopen a border that had been entirely shut from August that year and largely sealed for years before that.

The deal, part of a larger reconciliation effort, has subsequently broken down and Abbas’s PA has taken a series of measures against Gaza.

Egypt has allowed the border to be opened regularly since August 2018, providing a lifeline to the enclave’s two million residents.

Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas (R) stand guard outside the Rafah border crossing with Egypt just minutes before the Palestinian Authority withdraws its staff (L) from the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on January 7, 2019. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Last Monday, Fatah said Hamas had rounded up 500 party activists to prevent them from organizing events to mark the 54th anniversary of their party’s founding, scheduled for the following day. The Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza denied the accusations, saying it had only summoned 38 local Fatah leaders “to maintain order.”

In another incident, armed men trashed the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority’s television station in Gaza on Friday. Fatah blamed Hamas for the incident, but Hamas later arrested five men in the case, saying they were former PA employees whose salaries were recently suspended.

In the recent past, Egypt has been the primary mediator between Hamas and Fatah.

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