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Middle East
Abbas wins Egypt backing on border
Arab support for PA control of Rafah crossing comes as Egypt moves to seal border.
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2008 19:22 GMT

Egyptian soldiers and members of Hamas security forces have begun to seal the border [Reuters] 

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has won support from Egypt and the EU for a plan that would see the Palestinian Authority, rather than Hamas, take control of the Rafah crossing.
 
The move comes as Egyptian and Hamas security forces repair breaches to the border, in a sign that the crossing between Egypt and Gaza will close soon.
Shops were rapidly running out of supplies on the Egyptian side of Rafah on Monday.
 
Several hundred thousand Palestinians have poured into Egypt since Hamas fighters demolished parts of the fence at Rafah six days ago.
In video


Bulldozers prepare to seal the Egypt-Gaza border

The breach was made after an Israeli blockade of Gaza cut vital fuel and aid supplies to its Palestinian inhabitants.
 
Hamas was very much in evidence in Rafah on Monday. Its security personnel dressed in blue camouflage helped Egyptian border guards put up the fence across the Brazil crossing point.
 
The two security services also worked side by side to control traffic at the main Salah Eddin crossing point.


United front

 

Despite the co-operation on the ground between Egyptian and Hamas security forces, Arab foreign ministers and Palestinian officials presented on Sunday in the Egyptian capital a united front against control of the border by Hamas.

 

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"The only way to reopen the Rafah crossing is going back to that agreement," Riad al-Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, who attended the Cairo meeting, said on Monday.

 

He was referring to a border-control system set up in 2005 that stipulated that the Palestinian Authority (PA) should run the Rafah crossing with Israeli and EU monitors in place. 

 

"We will run the crossings as if Hamas was not there," al-Malki said.

 

The 2005 agreement does not recognise Hamas' total control over the Gaza Strip and its border with Egypt.

 
The Rafah crossing has largely been closed since June 2007 when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip.
 
Abbas backed
 
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and Fatah leader, and a Hamas delegation are due to hold separate meetings with Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, in Cairo, on Wednesday.
 
Abbas has refused to talk to Hamas until the group gives up control of Gaza.

Shops on the Egyptian side of the border
have begun to run out of supplies [Reuters]
The Cairo agreement backing Abbas received endorsement from Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Egyptian foreign minister, on Monday.

But Aboul Gheit told the EU and the US that it is important that Israel co-operate with the efforts to control the border crossings.
 
In a statement, he said this should be done "through the deployment of the Palestinian Authority [forces] and ... European Union monitors".

However Taher Nunu, the Hamas government spokesman, said Hamas is a legitimate government and should not be excluded from any arrangements regarding the crossing.
 
"We will discuss the new arrangement with the Egyptian brothers to ensure the opening of the crossing," he said.
 
Hamas says its main objection to the 2005 system is that Israel uses cameras and computers to track everyone who passes in and out of Gaza.
Source:
Agencies
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