PA to stop operating Gaza-Egypt crossing over spat with Hamas
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PA to stop operating Gaza-Egypt crossing over spat with Hamas

Ramallah government demands release of hundreds of Fatah members it says were arrested by terror group in coastal enclave

Palestinians wait to cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 16, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinians wait to cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 16, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The Palestinian Authority announced Sunday that it will its stop operations at the only border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, in protest of Hamas’s arrest of what it says are hundreds of members of the PA-affiliated Fatah party.

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

Under the terms of a November agreement, the Hamas terror group handed over control of the border crossing to the PA.

As a result of the PA announcement, Egypt is expected to close its side of the crossing, effectively shutting off traffic.

Hamas condemned the decision.

It was the latest development in the rapidly deteriorating ties between the two main Palestinian groups, which have been at loggerheads since 2007, when Hamas ousted the PA from Gaza.

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.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appeared to call Hamas authorities “spies” over the incident.

“Shame on those who prevented the torch from being lit today in Gaza,” he said in a speech at the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah. “Unfortunately, whoever does that is a spy.”

On Thursday, Nabil Shaath, Abbas’s adviser for foreign affairs, told The Times of Israel that Abbas will meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in Egypt to discuss reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Fatah.

The last publicly known time Abbas and Sissi met was November 3, in Sharm al-Sheikh, an Egyptian resort city.

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 it said were former PA employees whose salaries were recently suspended.

While the rival parties have signed a number of agreements to advance reconciliation, they have failed to implement them.

Most recently, Fatah and Hamas signed an Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation agreement in October 2017, but did not succeed in executing it on the ground.

Since a bomb exploded adjacent to PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s motorcade in March 2018, in Gaza, Ramallah-based ministers have not visited the coastal enclave.

Abbas has accused Hamas of carrying out the bombing; the terror group has vehemently denied the charge.

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

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