Hamas has ceded control of Gaza’s three land crossings on Wednesday, honoring agreements with Egypt during mediation between the group and the ruling Fatah movement which specified that control be given to the Palestinian Authority.
The three crossings — Beit Hanoun, Karam Abou Salem, and Rafah — have been under Hamas command since 2007 after the group won parliamentary elections against Fatah in 2006 and gaining control of the Gaza Strip.
Control over the crossings as well as penalties imposed on Hamas by the Fatah government were the most contentious points during the several reconciliation meetings in Cairo, which were concluded last month.
On October 17 Hamas declared the dissolution of its executive office in Gaza, agreeing to transfer control to the national reconciliation government initially formed in 2014. Hamas has also agreed to hold general elections.
In a press conference held in Gaza on Wednesday and attended by Egyptian security officials, Mofid al-Hasayna, the Palestinian Minister of Public Works and Housing, said that “Handing over the crossings is a real step towards reconciliation and ending the division that has ruled for 10 years.”
However, a Hamas official who spoke to Mada Masr on the condition of anonymity had reservations on the execution of the agreement, saying that the Palestinian Authority abruptly asked Hamas to vacate all their facilities near the crossing on Tuesday, including travel offices and security checkpoints.
According to the official, Hamas complied with the Authority’s requests. “The Palestinian Authority is expected to demolish the area and build new crossing facilities,” he adds, “but what happened suggests that Fatah wants to exclude Hamas altogether instead of collaborate with them.”
Moussa Abou Marzouk, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, voiced similar concerns on his Twitter account today, calling Rafah’s actions “inappropriate,” and cautioning that “any arrangement that lacks respect for the agreement will not succeed.”
Mada Masr acquired photos of the demolition of Hamas offices in the Beit Hanoun and Rafah crossings. Hamas also demolished a security barrier close to the Beit Hanoun crossing with Israel.
Political analyst Ibrahim al-Madhoun, who has close ties to Hamas, told Mada Masr that the transfer of control over the crossings is a gesture of goodwill by Hamas and that they expect a similar gesture in the lifting of penalties imposed on the Gaza Strip, which include the restriction of electricity, constraints on money transfers, reduction of employee salaries, and regulation of medical supplies.
Since Hamas took control of the crossings 10 years ago, the Egyptian government regularly closed the Rafah crossing for prolonged periods, and would restrict the crossing even when open, especially since 2013.
Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmed told Sout Falasteen radio on Wednesday that Egypt will open its side of the Rafah border starting November 15, by the time the ongoing renovations are completed.
Madhoun expects that the opening of the Rafah crossing will significantly deter the siege on the Gaza Strip.