Hamas Urges Palestinians Not to Jeopardize Egypt's Opening of Rafah Crossing

Ismail Haniyeh says Gazans must respect Egypt's security so Rafah crossing will remain open and enable Palestinians to travel after a four-year blockade.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh urged Gazans on Tuesday to refrain from breaching Egypt's security in order to maintain the Rafah border crossing open, French news agency AFP reported.

"Don't do anything that could compromise the reopening of the terminal," AFP quoted Hanieyh as saying. "We assure our Egyptian brothers: 'Your security is ours and your stability is ours.'"

Rafah crossing - Reuters - May 28, 2011
Reuters

On Saturday, Egypt permanently opened the Gaza Strip's main gateway to the outside world after four years of an Egyptian blockade of Gaza that has prevented the vast majority of Gaza's 1.5 million people from being able to travel abroad.

The move marked a significant achievement for the area's ruling Hamas group, and Haniyeh welcomed the decision and warned Palestinians "to refrain from any breach of Egypt's security."

Haniyeh made his remarks at the Gaza City inauguration of a monument in honor of the nine Turkish activists killed last year during an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007. The closure, which also included tight Israeli restrictions at its cargo crossings with Gaza and a naval blockade, was meant to weaken Hamas, an Islamic militant group that opposes peace with Israel.

But since the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February, Egypt's new leadership has vowed to ease the blockade and improve relations with the Palestinians.

The Rafah border terminal has functioned at limited capacity for months.

Travel has been restricted to certain classes of people, such as students, businessmen or medical patients. And the crossing was often subject to closures.

Travel through Israel's passenger crossing with Gaza is extremely rare.

Under the new system, most restrictions are being lifted, and a much larger number of Palestinians are expected to be able to cross each day, easing a backlog that can force people to wait for months.