Hamas takes over Gaza cargo terminal as PA forces decamp

Factions dispute whether departure was an expulsion by terror group or PA employees left of their own will

Trucks loaded with goods and merchandise make deliveries to the Gaza Strip after the Kerem Shalom crossing was opened on August 15, 2018. (Flash90)
Trucks loaded with goods and merchandise make deliveries to the Gaza Strip after the Kerem Shalom crossing was opened on August 15, 2018. (Flash90)

Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas took control of the Palestinian side of the enclave’s main goods crossing with Israel, the strip’s interior ministry and an official news agency said Sunday, after the Palestinian Authority guards left the terminal.

The PA said Sunday that Hamas had “expelled (its) employees and banned them from entering the crossing,” while Hamas asserted that the PA forces left of their own will.

In a statement, Hamas interior ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozm said its forces are carrying out “necessary security measures” at the crossing, “especially after the recent events in the Gaza Strip.”

The official PA news site Wafa reported Sunday that the measures included requiring PA forces to provide their fingerprints to their Hamas counterparts — a request they refused. The PA employees had been barred from reaching the crossing for the past three days, according to Wafa.

Shipments that go into Gaza through Kerem Shalom typically pass through the Israeli part of the crossing, followed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas-controlled portions of it.

Hamas, an Islamist terrorist group sworn to Israel’s destruction, has controlled Gaza since ousting the Fatah-dominated PA in 2007. However, employees of the Ramallah-based PA government have continued to coordinate the entry of goods into the Strip through Kerem Shalom.

A Palestinian policeman loyal to Hamas stands guard as trucks transporting construction materials enter the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing on September 22, 2013. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90/File)

Following a progression in reconciliation talks between the PA and Hamas, the latter agreed to give up security control of the Kerem Shalom and Erez Crossings.

However, the talks have progressively broken down since and a PA departure from Gaza crossings would mark a further deterioration of that relationship.

No mention was made, in either of the statements, regarding the PA’s presence at the Erez Crossing, which is for civilian foot traffic.

Sunday’s announcement came a day after Hamas reportedly said its security forces seized a shipment of army boots outfitted with tracking devices at Kerem Shalom.

Speaking with Turkey’s Anadolu news agency on Saturday, a Hamas security official accused Israel of attempting to send the boots into Gaza to “spy on members of the resistance and to follow their movements,” noting they resemble a design that groups in the coastal enclave wear.

The security source in Gaza said then that the Hamas-run security forces were now also imposing “strict security measures” at Kerem Shalom including a “precise inspection” of everything that enters and exits the coastal enclave.

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