Hamas open to any initiative to open Rafah crossing

Gaza, Feb 13 (IANS) The Islamic movement is open to any initiative that ends the suffering of the Palestinian people due to keeping the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt closed, a senior Hamas official said on Saturday.

Ismail Haneya, Hamas deputy chief, said his movement was ready to cooperate with any party that presents any initiative to keep the key crossing permanently open, Xinhua reported.

Haneya welcomed Egypt’s decision to temporarily open the terminal for two days as of Saturday.

“Egypt’s historic, Arab and Islamic role cannot be abandoned, and the Palestinian cause is one of the major concerns of Egypt,” he said.

Internal division between Haneya’s movement and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party that started in 2007, was the major reason for keeping the crossing closed, mainly differences on who rules the crossing.

Egyptian officials had repeatedly said the country would not keep the crossing open from its side for the Palestinians, while the Palestinians are divided, and it would only open it permanently when the internal Palestinian division ends.

Haneya called on Egypt to extend the opening of the crossing for more than two days to let a bigger number of Palestinians to travel, mainly patients and students.

According to the Hamas-run Ministry of Interior, there are 25,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who are in an urgent need of travelling through the sole and main gate for the Palestinians to travel abroad.

Last week, delegations of the two rival groups; Fatah and Hamas held a two-day round of talks in Qatar to implement former reconciliation deals and understandings reached between them in the last four years.

The two groups agreed on the principle of implementing their agreements, but said both will get back to their political leaderships to agree on the mechanism of implementing their reconciliation agreements.

Egypt competes with Qatar on sponsoring the issue of Palestinian reconciliation and sponsors the internal Palestinian dialogue since it started in 2007.

Earlier in the day, Egypt temporarily opened the Rafah border crossing for two days after it remained closed for 70 days, officials said.

The last time Egypt reopened the terminal was on on December 3 last year for two days.

In a statement, the Hamas-ruled Borders and Crossings Corporation said Egypt reopened the crossing from its side and the first bus of passengers had already crossed.

It added that the crossing will be working on Saturday and Sunday for Palestinians who want to travel in both directions, adding that priority was for humanitarian cases, students and those who hold dual citizenships.

Hundreds of Palestinians gathered on Saturday morning at the Palestinian side waiting for busses to move them into Egypt.

The corporation said the Rafah terminal was opened for only 21 days in 2015, adding the year was the worst ever for operating the crossing, the only gate for around two million Palestinians in Gaza to the world.

Since 2007, Hamas movement has been ruling the Gaza Strip, including Rafah crossing after it violently seized control of the enclave following weeks of internal fighting with security forces of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party.

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