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Egypt border closure disregards Palestinian suffering: Hamas

Islamist rulers of Gaza Strip call on Egypt to reopen Rafah border which has been closed for ten days; Egypt says move necessary to fight terrorism in Sinai

Ahram Online , Sunday 17 Nov 2013
Rafah border
Rafah border (Photo: Reuters)
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Hamas has repeated its condemnation of Egypt's closure of the border crossing between Rafah and the Gaza Strip.

“The closure of the Rafah border for the tenth day is worsening the humanitarian situation in Gaza and disregards the suffering of its residents,” Ihab El-Ghosein, a spokesperson for the Islamist group that rules the strip, said in a press statement on Sunday.

El-Ghosein called on Egypt to re-open the crossing because the suffering of Palestinians was now unbearable, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported.

“What good does the closure of the crossing do to Egypt?” El-Ghosein asked.

He asked global and regional states to take a stand against the policy.

Egypt's ambassador in the West Bank, Yasser Othman, rejected Hamas' accusation and said, "Egypt is bigger than that and we will not engage in rivalry with a small faction," Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam reported.

"The continued closure of the crossing is due to the critical security situation in Sinai," said Othman.

He also blamed the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza for the security threats in the peninsula.

The Rafah crossing is the only way in and out of Gaza that is not controlled by Israel.

Tensions have been on the rise between the Egyptian government and Hamas – an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood – since former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood, was ousted by the army on 3 July amid mass protests against his one-year rule.

During his second visit to Cairo since the ouster of Morsi, Palestinian president and Hamas rival Mahmoud Abbas criticised the Islamist government in Gaza and claimed he had received information about connections between the Gaza-ruling Islamist movement and security unrest in Sinai – which spiked after the 30 June protests that led to the ouster of Morsi.

The Gaza rulers for their part have frequently denied any links to the unrest Sinai, asserting that they respect Egypt's sovereignty in the peninsula.

The restive peninsula has seen a spike in militant insurgency since Morsi's ouster where attacks on security and army targets in the Sinai region have killed over 100 security personnel since July.

Dozens of militants have been killed since the army began its recent campaign to flush out "terrorists" and seize or destroy arms caches in the Sinai region.

On 4 October, Egypt's border guard head Major-General Ahmed Ibrahim announced that the armed forces had demolished 794 tunnels since the beginning of the year amid a security crackdown on militant activity in the restive peninsula.

Ibrahim added that security forces had destroyed a total of 1,055 tunnels since January 2011, following the revolution that toppled the Mubarak regime.

According to Hamas, the closure of tunnels used to smuggle goods into the Gaza strip has cost the nation monthly losses of $230 million (170 million Euros).

 

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