Rafah crossing opens as Hamas, Egypt improve ties
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Rafah crossing opens as Hamas, Egypt improve ties

Ismail Haniyeh makes first trip to Cairo in three years, says ties will witness a ‘paradigm shift’

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is greeted by supporters upon his return to Gaza City on January 27, 2017. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is greeted by supporters upon his return to Gaza City on January 27, 2017. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

The Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Hamas-run Gaza Strip reopened Saturday as Cairo and the Islamist terror organization that rules Gaza hailed an improvement in long-tense ties.

Israel Radio said the Rafah Border Crossing between Gaza and Egypt reopened on Saturday for three days, the first time it has been open this year.

Hamas called the rare visit by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to Cairo, the first visit by the group’s top leader in over three years, “successful,” according to Egypt’s state-run news agency.

Hebrew-language media quoted Egyptian officials as saying that the visit represents a desire by both sides to rebuild trust after tension since the 2013 military ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood group, Hamas’s mother movement. Authorities accused the group of supporting militants to carry out attacks in Egypt.

Haniyeh and his delegation departed Egypt to return to Gaza after talks with Egypt’s security and political authorities, including intelligence chief Khaled Fawzy, Egypt’s MENA reported. The two sides discussed Israel’s blockade of Gaza, Palestinian reconciliation and the lingering power outage in the strip.

The agency quoted a Hamas statement as saying the talks will have “positive results” on the situation in Gaza. It said that the delegation stressed that it doesn’t interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs.

“The Egyptian brothers have presented a comprehensive vision on all issues … such vision will have positive results on the Egyptian and the Palestinian people,” it said.

The agency gave no further details on future arrangements. But Haniyeh posted on his Twitter account saying after arriving in Gaza that the relations with Egypt will witness “paradigm shifts.”

For most of the past decade, Egypt has been a quiet partner with Israel in the blockade on Hamas-ruled Gaza, stifling the economy and largely blocking its 2 million people from moving in and out of the territory.

Israel imposes the blockade to prevent Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007 and avowedly seeks to destroy the Jewish state, from importing weaponry.

A Palestinian woman sits next to her luggage as she waits to cross to the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, in Rafah, Gaza Strip, October 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Adel Hana, File)
A Palestinian woman sits next to her luggage as she waits to cross to the Egyptian side of the Rafah Border Crossing, in Rafah, Gaza Strip, October 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Adel Hana, File)

In recent months, Cairo has increased the number of people allowed to exit through the Rafah Border Crossing, Gaza’s main gateway to the outside world. It also has begun to allow Gaza to import commercial goods through Rafah for the first time since 2013, and sent public signals that it is interested in improving relations.

Haniyeh left Gaza in September to perform the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca — the first time Egypt allowed him to leave the territory since Morsi’s ouster. He then went to Qatar to see Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

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