One day after reopening, the Rafah crossing was closed again on Friday because Israel issued a security alert that prevented European monitors from travelling to the terminal, officials said.

The Rafah crossing with Egypt was closed on Wednesday and part of Thursday after the Israeli army shut the nearby Kerem Shalom passage into southern Gaza also over a security alert.

Monitors use the Kerem Shalom passage to get to Rafah. If they are not present, the Rafah crossing must close.

The closing of the crossing on Wednesday and Thursday left hundreds of Palestinian travellers, including women and children, stranded on both sides of the border.

Siege

Yousuf Rizka, the Palestinian information minister called it a "criminal siege imposed on our people".

No go: The gate at Rafah crossing
being shut 

"It has nothing to do with any genuine security alert, they (the Israelis) just want to torment us and blackmail us," he said.

"I am sure 100% that these security warnings are false and fabricated. The true motive is to suffocate the people of Gaza, especially the government.

"Unfortunately, we have some Palestinian elements that connive with the Americans to close the terminal from time to time in order to exert more pressure on the government."

Rizqa did not name the "elements" but said that the Rafah border crossing was under the control of security personnel loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the president who has been locked in a power struggle with the Hamas government.

Rizka added that Gazans would not tolerate living in a de facto prison.

"I am sure that Gazans will take things into their hands if the Israelis and European monitors continue to play with our nerves."

EU accused of collusion

The EU monitors use Kerem
Shalom to get to work at Rafah

Earlier, Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, accused EU monitors of colluding with Israel to prevent Palestinian government officials from carrying cash into Gaza to circumvent the US-led and Israeli enforced financial blockade against the Hamas-led government.

It is believed that Hamas ministers and officials have brought in tens of millions of dollars in Arab and Muslim donations via the Rafah terminal. 

The government said all the money was transferred to the ministry of finance and used to pay overdue salaries to tens of thousands of civil servants.

Denials

The Israeli army denied allegations that the closure of the Kerem Shalom passage into southern Gaza was politically motivated and aimed at enabling Israel to control the Rafah border crossing via controlling the European monitors' access to it.

Palestinian border police cannot
process anyone with EU monitors
"The security alert is genuine," said an Israeli military spokesman. "However, keeping the Rafah crossing functioning is not our responsibility."

European monitors denied Palestinian accusations.

"We were informed late last night by the IDF (Israeli army) that the security state in Kerem Shalom doesn't allow for the gates to be opened for us to cross to the Rafah terminal," a spokesman for the monitors said.

According to the agreement governing movement and access at the Rafah crossing, signed on November 25, 2005, EU monitors are to ensure that the Palestinian Authority complies with its obligations at the crossing point as well as help develop the Palestinian's border management capability.

While their role does not include enforcement, EU monitors are empowered to freeze the transit process and demand the rechecking of any person, bag, or vehicle coming crossing the border.

The November agreement also calls for the creation of a joint liaison room in Kerem Shalom just inside Israel under the leadership of the EU where Israeli, Palestinian and EU representatives can watch live video from the Rafah crossing.