Hamas says Egypt to close Gaza crossing to Palestinians leaving the territory

A member of Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas stands guard at the gate of Rafah border crossing. (Reuters)
Updated 08 January 2019
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Hamas says Egypt to close Gaza crossing to Palestinians leaving the territory

  • Palestinian Authority took control of Rafah in November 2017, as part of a deal for Egypt to reopen the border
  • Hamas border official said they had taken control “to avoid a vacuum”

RAFAH: Egypt will bar Gazans from crossing into its territory from Tuesday, after the Palestinian Authority withdrew staff from the border point over alleged abuses.
The partial closure will raise fears over the impact on Gaza's two million residents, for whom a rare opening of the crossing in recent months has provided an opportunity to leave the strip, controlled by Hamas.
A statement late Monday from the Hamas-run interior ministry said Egyptian authorities had informed them the crossing "will be limited to only the arrival of individuals and the entry of goods".
It did not say for how long it was expected to be closed for those leaving, and there was no immediate comment from Egypt.
Rafah - the only way for Gazans to leave the Palestinian enclave that bypasses Israel - was closed Monday due to the Orthodox Christmas holiday but had been expected to reopen both directions Tuesday.
The PA's civil affairs authority on Sunday announced its staff would no longer man the crossing, accusing Hamas of "summoning, arresting and abusing our employees", according to official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
Earlier on Monday Hamas employees retook the post in what they said was an attempt to maintain border control after the shock PA withdrawal.
An AFP journalist saw Hamas officials at the border crossing's main gate and inside accompanying offices in southern Gaza.
Hamas' interior ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozum said his organisation aimed to "protect the interests of our people."
Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 in a near civil war with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas' Fatah party.
But the PA took control of Rafah in November 2017, as part of a deal for Egypt to reopen a border that had been entirely shut from August that year and largely sealed for years before that.
The PA's takeover of Rafah in 2017 was seen as a first step towards implementing a reconciliation agreement between it and Hamas.
The deal has subsequently broken down and Abbas' PA has taken a series of measures against Gaza.
Egypt has allowed the border to open regularly since August 2018, providing a lifeline to the enclave's residents.
Israel has maintained a crippling blockade of Gaza for more than a decade, in a bid to isolate Hamas and keep it from obtaining weapons.
Critics say the policy amounts to collective punishment.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.
A planned event commemorating the anniversary of the founding of Fatah - due to take place in Gaza on Monday - was cancelled on Sunday, as organisers said they faced threats.


Sudan’s military council, opposition coalition agree political accord

Updated 57 min 41 sec ago
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Sudan’s military council, opposition coalition agree political accord

  • The constitutional declaration is expected to be signed on Friday
  • The deal aims to help the political transition in Sudan

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s ruling military council and an opposition alliance signed a political accord on Wednesday as part of a power-sharing deal aimed at leading the country nation to democracy.
The agreement was signed in Khartoum in the presence of African mediators following a night of talks to iron out some details of the agreement reached earlier this month.
The deal is meant to pave the way to a political transition in Sudan after military leaders ousted former President Omar Al-Bashir in April following weeks of protests against him.
“We want a stable homeland, because we have suffered a great deal,” Ibrahim Al-Amin, a leader in the opposition Forces of Freedom and Change coalition, said after the ceremony.
Ethiopian mediator Mahmud Dirir said Sudan needed to overcome poverty and called for the country to be taken of a US list of states that support terrorism.
The sides are still working on a constitutional declaration, which is expected to be signed on Friday.