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Hamas Hands Over Gaza Border Crossings to PA Control

Hamas Hands Over Gaza Border Crossings to PA Control

Wednesday, 1 November, 2017 - 09:30
Trucks carrying fuel for the Gaza Strip enter Rafah through the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip on March 16, 2014. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Hamas began ceding control of the Gaza Strip's border crossings with Israel and Egypt to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday under an agreement brokered by Cairo last month to end a decade of internal divisions.

Witnesses said that employees from Abbas' Palestinian Authority (PA) moved into Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings on the Israeli border and Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border, as Hamas counterparts packed up equipment and departed on trucks.

At Rafah, large murals of Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi decorated the entrances to the passport hall and Palestinian and Egyptian flags flew over the compound.

Mufeed al-Husayna, a PA minister, gave a short speech at the crossing, saying all the border crossings were being handed over.

"We began today, under the directive of the prime minister (Rami Hamdallah), to exercise our duties by receiving all the crossings," he said, thanking the Egyptians for mediating the deal.

"There is no yellow and green. All our Palestinian people are under the Palestinian flag," he added, referring to the flag colors of the political parties that signed last month's reconciliation deal.

Hamdallah is due to visit Gaza again in the coming days, he added.

Citing security concerns, Israel maintains tight restrictions on the movement of people and goods at its crossings with the Gaza Strip, including an almost blanket ban on exports from the territory.

Hamas’ move on Wednesday marked the most concrete implementation of the Oct. 11 reconciliation deal struck in Cairo.

Ministers from the Abbas-backed government of national consensus have begun gradually to assume their duties in Gaza in past weeks and on Tuesday took over the revenue accounts of the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings, officials said.

Hamas had used those revenues - taxes and fees collected from merchants and passengers - as part of its Gaza budget, to pay salaries of the 40,000 to 50,000 employees it has hired since 2007. Those wages will now be paid by the PA, under the Cairo agreement.

The Palestinian Authority will begin operating the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings immediately, officials said, while in Rafah the operation will await further security arrangements such as deploying a force from Abbas' presidential guards and Cairo completing innovations on its side of the facility.

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