Egypt: Rafah Closed till Shalit's Release

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CBNNews.com - CAIRO, Egypt - The Egyptian government says the Rafah border crossing will remain closed until Hamas releases Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Corporal Gilad Shalit.

According to a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, who spoke with Jerusalem Post Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh Thursday, Egypt informed Hamas of its decision and Hamas, in turn, rejected it.

"They [Egypt] said the border [with the Egyptian Sinai] would be opened if Hamas abided by the cease-fire and stopped the rocket attacks on Israel," the official told Toameh by phone.

"They are all afraid that the reopening of the border would strengthen Hamas and weaken Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership in Ramallah," he said.

"[PA President] Mahmoud Abbas is also exerting heavy pressure on Egypt not to reopen Rafah. He doesn't want Hamas to be in control of the Palestinian side of the terminal. He [Abbas]wants his men to return to the terminal, as was the case before June 2007 [when Hamas took over control of Gaza]," he said.

Quoting a senior Egyptian official, the Hamas rep said Egypt would only re-open the Rafah crossing under the 2005 UN-brokered agreement, which gave the PA's Fatah-affiliated security forces sole control of the Palestinian side of the crossing.

According to the Hamas official, Egypt holds Israel responsible for the well-being of residents of the Gaza Strip.

"The Egyptian position is that the reopening of the Rafah border crossing would exempt Israel from fulfilling its duties toward the residents of the Gaza Strip," the Hamas official said.

"The Egyptians also told us that if we wanted to import fuel, gas and food, we should do so only through Israel because they insist that the Rafah terminal be used only for the passage of civilians," he said.

The Hamas official would neither confirm nor deny rumors of secret negotiations for Corporal Shalit's release.

Hamas, which is demanding the release of hundreds of Palestinian terror prisoners in exchange for Shalit, claims that Egypt is biased toward Israel.

Source: The Jerusalem Post

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