CAIRO: As border tensions remained high between Egypt and the Hamas-controlled Gaza, Egypt’s top diplomat on Tuesday sharply rebuked the Palestinian group, saying the militants were driving the people in the coastal strip to clash with the Egyptians.
Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit also said that Hamas should give up control of Gaza’s border crossings, scrapping Hamas’ hopes that Cairo could strike a deal on it with the group.
“We ask the authorities who control the Gaza Strip to allow the return of EU observers and Palestinian Authority police in order to be able to apply the 2005 agreement, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told journalists.
Under the 2005 deal, the Rafah crossing was to be overseen by EU monitors with cameras enabling round-the-clock surveillance by Israel of those passing through – something Hamas rejects.
However, the agreement has been a dead letter since Hamas in June violently ejected Palestinian Authority forces loyal to president Mahmoud Abbas who were supposed to be controlling the frontier.
Hamas rejects any Israeli involvement on the border, which was resealed on Monday, and wants EU observers, who have been waiting in Israel since they were unable to go to work in June, to be based in Egypt.
Aboul Gheit said Egypt had proposed “several ideas for reopening the crossing after Jan. 23 breach, allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians through, but declined to elaborate.
“Egypt rejects the policy of collective punishment and calls on Israel to assume its responsibility, he said.
Aboul Gheit called on “Hamas leaders inside Gaza to show wisdom and not to encourage Palestinians to approach the frontier because Egypt cannot accept any provocation.
The closure sparked protests by the Palestinians, with a demonstration at the border turning violent late Monday with stone-throwing, exchanges of gunfire and tear gas.
President Hosni Mubarak, in an interview published on Tuesday in a Spanish newspaper, said that Egypt will not allow militants to breach its border with Gaza again.
“It is a mistake to besiege the Palestinians but we will not accept that the border be left open indefinitely. What happened will not be repeated, he told the daily newspaper ABC.
Mubarak rejected any responsibility for Monday’s violence at the border in which a Palestinian was shot dead. “We did not give any order to shoot anyone, he said. -Agencies