Palestinian factions stick to their guns

Abdel-Rahman Hussein
3 Min Read

CAIRO: Fatah and Hamas representatives were obstinate over their respective roles in controlling the Egypt-Gaza border at talks held in Cairo Wednesday.

Separate meetings were held in Cairo with the Fatah and Hamas delegations, who also met with Egyptian officials. President Mubarak met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but did not meet the Hamas delegation, which was headed by leader Khaled Meshaal.

After the meetings had concluded, it seemed that neither side had changed their original positions, which were directly opposing. Each side claimed that it should be in charge of the tumultuous Egypt-Gaza border.

In a news conference given after his meetings with Mubarak and other senior officials, Abbas said, “Hamas has to end its coup in Gaza, accept all international obligations, and accept holding early elections. After that, our hearts are open for any dialogue.

Stipulating that the PA would take control of the Rafah border crossing under an old agreement that includes the presence of international monitors, Abbas added that “We do not accept any new agreements.

Abbas has already secured the backing of Egypt and the international community to return the crossing to PA control but Hamas was less than enthusiastic about this plan.

Senior Hamas officials made a show of their control of the Rafah crossing as they had their passports checked and stamped by Hamas officers before leaving the Gaza strip for Egypt.

Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said they would “not accept anything less than a key role in the Rafah crossing, making it clear they were not willing to relinquish their hold on the strip – the only outlet which is not directly monitored by Israel.

A chief Hamas leader in Gaza Mahmoud Al-Zahar echoed these sentiments stating that facts on the ground prevented the PA from sweeping in to take over.

“The reality is that there is a legitimate government. We will not give up our legitimacy to anybody, he said referring to the Hamas victory in the elections of 2006.

Therefore, “Talking about a partial role contradicts reality, Al-Zahar added.

Meanwhile, some order has been restored along the Rafah border, through which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have streamed since Jan. 22, desperate for much- needed supplies after a total Israeli blockade of the strip.

The number of Palestinians in Egypt has decreased considerably since the government decided to stop supplies from entering Al-Arish and Rafah, thereby nullifying the reason for their entry. By Wednesday, Egyptian forces – with the aid of Hamas – had sealed all but two of the breaches on the border.

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