Israel ministers slam Rafah reopening

Israel warns that terror groups would be able to move weapons, people freely.

Jerusalem: Israeli ministers on Sunday slammed Egypt`s decision to reopen its Rafah border crossing with Egypt, warning that terror groups would be able to move weapons and people freely through the crossing.

Israel has warned that reopening the crossing, which Egypt closed to almost all traffic in 2007, would boost Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip and is designated a terror group by Israel, the United States and Europe.

"The free movement of people and cargo that will take place is simply going to be used in a more intensive manner to bring in ammunition and military equipment and moreover the free movement of terrorists," Israel`s Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau told reporters.

Cairo first announced in April that it planned to reopen the border, after Hamas signed a deal with rival Palestinian movement Fatah, ending a four-year rift that led to Egypt`s closure of the Rafah crossing.

The closure came despite a 2005 agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that saw the European Union agree to place monitors at the border crossing.

Although Cairo was not a signatory to the accord, Israeli ministers on Sunday accused Egypt of violating the deal by reopening the border.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Egypt`s decision to reopen the crossing over Israel`s objections showed that the Jewish state could not rely on other nations to protect its borders.

"This is very strong proof of why it is so important for Israel to guard our borders by ourselves to prevent the infiltration of terrorists and weapons," he said at the beginning of a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

He said the border reopening was also proof that Israel needed to maintain control over the Jordan Valley under any peace agreement with the Palestinians, describing the 2005 border deal as "not worth the paper its written on”.

Landau called the reopening a "very regrettable development”.

"Agreements signed have to be respected and I wish to see the entire international community saying very clearly this abrogation of the agreement by Egypt cannot be accepted," he added.

Though Egypt was not party to the 2005 deal, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his foreign minister insisted they were obliged to comply with it.

The accord put Rafah under Egyptian and Palestinian control, with the EU observers taking up their positions at the crossing in November 2005 in a bid to prevent the free passage of weapons or personnel into the enclave.

But, seven months later, their mission was abruptly suspended following the capture by Gaza militants of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, prompting Israel to impose a tight blockade on the territory.

The crossing remained largely closed from June 2006 to June 2010, when Egypt partially opened it in the wake of a botched Israeli raid on an aid flotilla that was trying to reach Gaza, which killed nine Turkish activists.

Bureau Report

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