Gaza Border Crossing Will Remain Free of European Observers, Hamas Official Says

Speaking to the group's al-Aqsa Radio, senior official says Hamas, in control of the coastal enclave since 2007, has proved it can manage Gaza's Rafah crossing.

Hamas will not call on international observers to supervise its newly opened border crossing with Egypt, a senior official of the militant group said on Sunday, as some 600 people made use of the newly opened border.

Ghazi Hamad said Palestinians saw no need for the immediate return of European observers to the disputed crossing as provided for under a 2005 deal with Israel.

Rafah crossing - AP - May 28, 2011

"The Palestinians have proved their ability to operate the Rafah crossing," said Hamad, the deputy foreign minister in the de-facto Hamas government and the head of Gaza's border authority.

"There is no need for them at this time," he told Hamas' al-Aqsa Radio. According to the internationally-brokered agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, European observers should monitor the Rafah crossing.

Israeli Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said Israel now held Egypt responsible for security at the border.

"The moment the Egyptians opened, they are responsible," he told reporters at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev would not comment when asked by the German Press-Agency dpa if Israel wanted the return of the European monitors.

Benoit Cusin, a spokesman for the European Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) in Rafah, told DPA last week the mission would only be able to resume their work at the invitation of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The decisions of the signatories to the 2005 agreement that established the mission were decisive and not unilateral action by Egypt, he said.

The Europeans suspended their mission after Hamas seized sole control of Gaza in 2007.

Under the agreement, Palestinian Authority security forces, not those of Hamas, should be in charge of the Palestinian side of the crossing.

Referring to the 2005 agreement, Hamad said it "had its special circumstances when it was signed, but the situation now is completely different."

He listed the Egyptian revolution, the reconciliation pact brokered between Hamas and the West Bank-based PA earlier this month after years of feuding, and Hamas' control of Gaza.

Gazans celebrated the opening of the border for the first time in four years Saturday, with scores of men, women and children heading to the crossing.

Hamas held a festive ceremony thanking Egypt for its decision, which came after a reconciliation between the Islamist movement and the secular Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas earlier this month, after years of internal Palestinian feuding.

According to Hamas' Interior Ministry, some 600 Palestinians and foreign passport holders had left Gaza for Egypt since Saturday.