CAIRO: Egypt has blamed Israel rather than Hamas for the recent events in Rafah in which thousands of Palestinians broke through the border to fill up on fuel, food and other supplies.
In messages sent to both the European Union (EU) and the US, Egypt s Foreign Ministry said that the Israeli blockade which preceded the border breach was the main cause and that it was Israel’s responsibility to lift the embargo on the territory.
“The fundamental elements of the Egyptian viewpoint rely on Israel’s shouldering of the main legal and humanitarian responsibility of the conditions of the Gaza population and the flow of Palestinians into Egypt, a ministry statement released Tuesday read.
An earlier statement had said that, “Israel bears the responsibility for its escalation and ensuing flow of Palestinians through the borders, which was contained by Egypt.
This view was reiterated in a five-hour secret meeting between Israeli and Egyptian officials in Cairo to discuss the border breach, Asharq Alawsat reported.
The newspaper reported that the Israeli delegation – headed by the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Military Bureau Head Amos Gilad – had expressed concerns about weapons smuggling but had been informed by the Egyptians that while they understood their concern, they felt it was Israel that was “responsible for the deterioration of the situation in the Gaza Strip.
Egypt will host representatives of both Hamas and Fatah in Cairo today.
While President Mahmoud Abbas will lead the Fatah delegation, the Hamas delegation will be led by Mahmoud Zahar, a high ranking member in Gaza who has had two sons killed by Israeli air strikes.
The ministry statement was released on the second day in which Hamas soldiers assisted their Egyptian counterparts in resealing the border.
A security source told AFP that Egypt had deployed 20,000 troops in Northern Sinai since last Saturday when clashes led to the injury of 38 soldiers.
Egypt has also prohibited supply trucks from reaching Al-Arish and Rafah, thus eliminating the reason for Palestinians to enter as they shop for basic commodities. As a result, the influx of Palestinians into Rafah has decreased severely as prices on what little good were available skyrocketed.
“Security forces are removing the Palestinians from Al-Arish and Sheikh Zowayed and making them return to Rafah, North Sinai Tagammu party member Ahsraf El Hefny told Daily News Egypt, “They are not being forcibly removed from Rafah. They are still allowed to enter and exit freely. According to El Hefny, there are still two breaches open in the border wall at Rafah which the Palestinians are using. The others are being sealed by Egyptian forces.
He also said that the residents of the area are now suffering from fuel shortages as security forces are holding up the supply trucks at the Mubarak Peace Bridge to stem the flow of goods into the area.
“I fear that Israel and the US are happy with the situation because currently it is an Egyptian problem, El Hefny said.
“We support the opening of the borders, he added, “and the movement of Palestinians in and out of Egypt easily but we don’t want it to reach the point of granting citizenship to Gazans and incorporating Gaza into Sinai as that is exactly what the Israelis want.
Israel welcomed a Fatah initiative to allow the Palestinian Authority to guard the border, including the Rafah border crossing, an idea already accepted by the Egyptians and international community.
EU foreign ministers backed this proposal in a meeting Monday.