Egyptian officials meet with Hamas on Gaza-Egypt border security
Meeting is second time sides meet on border issue in a week; Hamas: Sides mulling security arrangements.
EL-ARISH, Egypt - A Hamas delegation met Tuesday with Egyptian officials at the Rafah border terminal in an effort to try to open the border and tighten security, officials said.
The meeting was held approximately a month after Palestinian militants blew holes in parts of the wall separating Egypt from the Gaza Strip, prompting hundreds of thousands of Gazans to pour across the frontier out of the blockaded Strip. Egypt's attempts to reseal the border spread out over nearly two weeks.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the two sides were discussing security arrangements along the border and possible ways to allow Palestinians still stuck in Egypt to cross back into the Gaza Strip.
Egyptian security officials would only confirm that the meeting - the second one in a week - took place, but they would not provide details. Those officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
On Thursday, senior Egyptian intelligence officials and a Hamas delegation met in the Egyptian city of el-Arish during which Egypt warned the rulers of Gaza against future border breaches like the one that took place on Jan. 23.
On the first day of the border breach, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered his troops to let the Palestinians cross freely as long as they came to buy food and commodities. But after 12 days, Egypt sealed its borders and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit threatened Hamas of 'breaking legs' of Palestinians who dare to violate borders again.
Meanwhile, the Rafah crossing terminal, the only crossing from Gaza that is not manned by Israeli monitors, remains closed pending Israeli permission and intervention by the European Union to return its crossing monitors and resume normal operations.
Israel ordered a complete closure of the Rafah terminal when the Islamist militant group Hamas violently seized control over the Gaza Strip on June 2006. European monitors who were responsible for the daily border terminal operations in accordance with a 2005 agreement, have withdrawn from their posts.
Hamas is pushing to replace its rival Palestinian faction, Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority mandate over the terminal, something all other parties reject including Egypt.