Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rafah border crossing to close starting Thursday, says report

Daily News Egypt
By Abdel-Rahman Hussein
February 3, 2009

CAIRO: The Egyptian government intends to close the Rafah border crossing starting Thursday, an unnamed official told the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper.

The crossing was opened in the wake of the Israeli offensive on Gaza Dec. 27 to allow humanitarian aid to go through and to receive wounded Palestinians that were treated in Egypt.
The decision comes after Egypt stopped receiving any more wounded Gazans, but the official did say that Egypt reserved the right to open the crossing in the future.

The announcement of the closure comes on the heels of a ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court to ban aid convoys from entering the Gaza Strip except through legal channels dictated by the state.

This appears to mean that aid convoys will now be permitted entry through the Israeli-controlled checkpoints of Al-Oja and Kerem Shalom (Karem Abu Salem).

But secretary of the Tagammu party in North Sinai Ashraf El Hefny told Daily News Egypt that they had no intention of sending any humanitarian aid through the Israeli-controlled crossings, and would only send it through the Rafah crossing.

On the closure he said, “[Egypt] is participating in the blockade of Gaza to put pressure on Hamas to accept Israeli terms for a negotiation. [It is] also making security arrangements for the benefit of Israel. This is collusion, this is more than collusion.

“It is also an attack on our sovereignty. [President Hosni] Mubarak says we don’t want foreign troops on the border but what about the American experts who were at the crossing?” he added.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reiterated on Tuesday while in Abu Dhabi his call for the crossings into Gaza to be opened, which he deemed a necessity for the attainment of a lasting ceasefire.

“Crossings must be open. All the crossings must be open to make the ceasefire durable,” he said.

At the Rafah border crossing, two journalists from Al Jazeera, Ahmed Mansour and Ghassan Ben Jiddu, were prevented from entering the Gaza Strip for the third consecutive day. Additionally, six members if their news crew were also denied entry.

However other reporters were allowed to enter the Gaza Strip through the crossing. It was also reported Tuesday that the Israeli Foreign Ministry had placed restrictions on Al Jazeera staff situated there.

The restrictions come as a response to the closure of the Israeli trade office in Doha, Qatar, in the midst of the war. The restrictions include non-renewal of visas for reporters not holding Israeli documentation, prohibiting the interviewing of all politicians except three designated spokespeople, and denial of entry into briefings and press conferences.