Egypt is conditioning an easing of transit restrictions at the Rafah checkpoint on the presence of a force from the Palestinian Authority’s Presidential Guard being stationed on the Gaza side of the crossing.
Egypt has made this requirement clear to both Hamas and Israel in recent days. During the last weeks of the fighting, Hamas had indicated a willingness to consider the idea, but it hasn’t given a final answer. Israel has no objection to this demand.
The Presidential Guard is one of the PA security forces subordinate to President Mahmoud Abbas. Egypt doesn’t want to have any direct contact with Hamas’ security people and wants all immediate contact with the Palestinian side to be conducted by the PA, which would be returning to the Gaza Strip for the first time since it was expelled by Hamas in June 2007.
The Egyptians also want additional units of the Presidential Guard to be deployed along the border between Sinai and Gaza, in the Philadelphi Corridor in the Rafah region. Egypt, however, opposes a European proposal that it train the PA forces for their new mission, nor is it interested in a force of international inspectors at Rafah. After Israel withdrew from the interior of Gaza in 2005, an international force was stationed at the checkpoint, but it was ineffective and it abandoned the position later on, when Hamas seized control of the Strip.
Israel is already allowing the entry of equipment into Gaza to start repairing the massive destruction from the war. Last week it allowed medical equipment through the Kerem Shalom crossing that had been flown here by three American transport planes. Israel will shortly allow entry to a Jordanian aid delegation.
At the same time, Israel and the PA are conducting talks with local UN envoy Robert Serry on establishing an inspection mechanism for goods to be allowed to enter Gaza from Israel. The aim is to prevent the entry of “dual use” materials that Israel fears can be used to build more tunnels or weapons. Similar understandings were in place during part of the period between Operation Pillar of Defense and the recent operation.
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