CAIROÂ – Egypt said on Monday it wanted the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas to control the border crossing with the Gaza Strip, excluding Hamas Islamists who have run the territory since June.
Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told the European Union and the United States it was important that Israel cooperate with the efforts to control the border crossings “through the deployment of the Palestinian Authority (forces) and … European Union monitors,” a foreign ministry statement said.
“Aboul Gheit stressed in his messages and calls that Egypt was determined to carry out a gradual control of the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip and bring the situation back to the acceptable condition,” ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said.
Hamas, which drove Abbas’s forces out of the coastal strip in June, said on Sunday it had assurance from Egypt that Cairo was not committed to returning to a 2005 border deal that gave Abbas control over the crossing.
Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Sunday welcomed Abbas’s proposal to control the border.
Abbas and Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal are expected in Cairo this week to discuss the issue with Egyptian officials.
Political analyst Amr El-Choubaki said he believed Hamas could eventually agree on a partial presence of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza.
“Hamas is under siege,” he said. “It has a chance to take cover behind the Palestinian Authority.” The Egyptian position provided the Islamist group with an opportunity to revise its policies in Gaza.
Egyptian state-run newspapers set the grounds for Meshaal’s expected visit by launching scathing attacks against Hamas, accusing it of undermining Egypt’s national security.
Mohamed Ali Ibrahim, editor of Al-Gomhuria daily, said Hamas was serving Israel by exporting the problem of Gaza to Egypt. He told Egyptians at the border town of Rafah that money used by Gazans to shop in Egypt were mostly counterfeit.
“Do not believe Hamas, it implements an Israeli plan that aims at first to secure Israel’s security … and destroy the Palestinian Authority,” Ibrahim wrote.
Tension flared at the border on Friday when Palestinians successfully challenged an Egyptian attempt to seal the crossings and pelted Egyptian security forces with stones, injuring 22, according to Egypt’s state-run media. Egyptian police responded with batons and water cannon.
Egypt describes the Hamas takeover of Gaza as a “coup against legitimacy”.