Hamas cedes control of Gaza crossings to Palestinian Authority
Hamas officially handed over control of all border crossings in and out of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority (PA) on Wednesday as a part of the ongoing unity process between the two rival factions.
The Rafah crossing, the only entry and exit point between Gaza and Egypt, was handed over to the PA during a ceremony attended by senior figures from Hamas, Fatah and representatives of the Egyptian government.
Other border crossings with Israel will also change hands on Thursday.
Islamist Hamas and West Bank-based Fatah have controlled Gaza and the PA respectively since a near-civil war in 2006-7 following elections won by Hamas. After a breakthrough in long-stuttering reconciliation talks earlier this year, the PA have slowly begun taking over government functions in Gaza.
Under the Egyptian-brokered deal, they are due to take full control of Gaza by December 1.
According to Palestinian news agency Wafa, PA Minister of Public Works Mufeed al-Husayn and Director-General of the General Directorate of Crossings and Borders Nazmi Muhanna were present at the ceremony, in which pictures of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi were erected on a building.
Al-Husayna gave a short speech at the crossing, saying all the border crossings were being handed over.
"We began today, under the directive of the prime minister (Rami Hamdallah), to exercise our duties by receiving all the crossings," he said, thanking the Egyptians for mediating the deal.
"There is no yellow and green. All our Palestinian people are under the Palestinian flag," he added, referring to the flag colors of the political parties that signed last month's reconciliation deal.
The Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said it would convene a meeting of Israeli defense officials and the Palestinian Authority to discuss the operation of the checkpoints.
"The meeting will define the joint working procedures, criteria and Israeli security requirements for the operation of the crossings, with the emphasis on the absence of any Hamas official or anyone acting on his behalf in and around the crossings," the statement said.
Up until now, Hamas operated the Gaza sides of the crossings.
The United Nations envoy for the peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, welcomed what he described as a "landmark" step on the way to a full rapprochement.
"The return of the crossings should facilitate the lifting of the closures, while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns, and unlock increased international support for Gaza’s reconstruction, growth, stability and prosperity," Mladenov said in a statement.
On Monday, seven Palestinian militants were killed when Israel blew up a tunnel it said stretched from the Gaza Strip into its territory and was intended for attacks.
The incident raised fears the timetable could be delayed, but both the PA and Hamas stressed they were committed to the agreement.
Officials from both organizations accused Israel of trying to disrupt the deal, though Israel's army said it was forced to act after its sovereignty was breached.
All the major Palestinian factions are due to meet in Cairo later this month to discuss the formation of a unity government.
Israel has said it will reject any unity government that includes Hamas in which the Islamist movement does not disarm and recognize the Jewish state's right to exist.
The Fatah-dominated Palestine Liberation Organisation has recognized Israel, but Hamas has not.
AFP contributed to this report.
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sure. it is Israel's fault they went after the Pali file terrorist tunnels. Gaza will need to remain closed since Abbas is also a terrorist