Don’t jeopardize Rafah reopening: Hamas tells Gazans

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GAZA CITY: The head of the Hamas government in Gaza on Tuesday urged Palestinians to respect Egypt’s security so that Cairo would keep open the Rafah border crossing.

Ismail Haniya welcomed Egypt’s decision to fully reopen the crossing last week, and warned Palestinians "to refrain from any breach of Egypt’s security."

"Don’t do anything that could compromise the reopening of the terminal," he said. "We assure our Egyptian brothers: ‘Your security is ours and your stability is ours.’"

Haniya made the comments at the inauguration in Gaza City of a monument to nine Turkish activists who were killed last year during an Israeli raid on a flotilla of aid ships attempting to break the naval blockade on Gaza.

Egypt first announced plans to open Rafah on a permanent basis at the end of April, a day after Hamas reached a surprise reconciliation deal with its Fatah rivals, who control the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

The Rafah crossing has remained largely shut since June 2006, when Israel imposed a tight blockade on the territory after militants snatched Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is still being held.

Israel’s blockade was tightened a year later when Hamas seized control of the territory, ousting forces loyal to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

Israel took steps to ease the measure last summer following international pressure after the raid that killed the nine Turkish activists.

It has strongly criticized Egypt’s decision to reopen Rafah, with ministers warning that "terror groups" would now be able to freely transport money, weapons and people across the border.

Egypt had actively supported Israel’s blockade on Gaza, despite harsh regional criticism, but the military regime that took control after street protests ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February quickly signaled a change in policy.

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