Gaza Residents Fume as Opening of Egypt Crossing Stalls and Reconciliation Falters

Wednesday was set to be the reopening of the Strip's main crossing with Egypt, an unlikely event given Hamas and Fatah remain in deadlock over security issues

The Rafah crossing border with Egypt, in the Southern Gaza Strip,Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017.
Khalil Hamra/AP

The anniversary of the declaration of Palestinian independence will be marked Wednesday in areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. The declaration was made by Yasser Arafat at a meeting of the Palestinian National Council in Algeria on November 15, 1988, formalized the Palestinian position supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.

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According to a Palestinian government resolution, this is to be a day of rest, but despite the symbolism of the day, Palestinians note that it is also the day the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt was to have transferred to the complete responsibility of the PA, for the first time in 10 years. On Tuesday night it was still unclear if the crossing would open, and estimates are that this will not happen until the middle of next week. A spokesman for the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Mohammed al-Maqadma, told Haaretz that as of Tuesday night there had been no instruction given to open the crossing.

After the signing of the reconciliation agreement in Cairo last month, Fatah and Hamas announced that the PA would fully take over the crossings by November 1. PA representatives arrived at the crossings early this month and took over responsibility for their operation, but they noted that they’d need two weeks to sort out all the issues involved in the crossings’ management.

Last week, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said that until the issue of security in the entire Strip was resolved, the government could not continue working there, including at the crossings. Hamas accused Fatah of evading its responsibility, noting that the agreement stipulated that the PA would take over but without dismissing Hamas officials there. Instead, Hamas employees are supposed to be incorporated into the PA’s administration.

Estimates in Ramallah and Gaza are that there will be no changes in the next few days, especially at the Rafah crossing, and that security issues would be raised at a meeting of all Palestinian factions on November 21 in Cairo.

It’s unclear if Egypt will push for opening the crossing soon, although frustration and anger among civilians in Gaza is growing. People have been waiting for a month for some improvement, following the high-profile signing of a reconciliation agreement. However, no significant improvement has happened yet.