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Egypt rejects Israel’s control of Rafah crossing on Gaza side

Sameh Shoukry has said Israel’s occupation of the Rafah crossing makes it inoperable [Getty]

The Rafah border crossing critical to aid deliveries into Gaza from Egypt cannot operate again unless Israel relinquishes control and hands it back to Palestinians on the Gaza side, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Monday.

Last month, Israel seized Gaza’s entire border with Egypt including the crossing during its offensive against the southern city of Rafah. The crossing also represents the only lifeline to the outside world for the 2.3 million population in the Israeli-besieged territory.

“It is difficult for the Rafah crossing to continue operating without a Palestinian administration,” Shoukry told a press conference with his Spanish counterpart in Madrid.

Shoukry said the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty remained “a solid base for security and stability in the region and everyone must consider and take measures responsibly to preserve this important treaty”.

His comments come as news emerged of an Israel delegation meeting with Egypt and US officials in Cairo on Sunday, during which Egyptian government representatives reaffirmed Egypt’s rejection of Israeli control over Rafah. 

An Egyptian source, speaking to The New Arab’s sister outlet Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, said Cairo “remains steadfast in its position against operating the crossing as long as Israeli control continues on the Palestinian side.”

“There are American proposals for the return to the agreement on managing the crossing, involving the Palestinian Authority, supervised by a European Union mission on the Palestinian side, and solely managed by Egypt on the Egyptian side,” the source added.

Egypt also says that Hamas has no complaints about handing the management of the Rafah crossing to the PA.

“Hamas does not oppose the idea of the PA managing the Rafah crossing,” the source said, adding that “Hamas handed over the crossing to the PA in 2017 following the signing of the reconciliation agreement and the dissolution of the administrative committee at that time.”

The Egyptian source also affirmed that Egypt and Hamas’s vision aligns on Rafah. 


Hamas’s vision aligns with Egypt’s in considering the crossing a Palestinian-Egyptian point and that Israel should have no role in its management and operation.”

“Hamas rejects any foreign military presence in Gaza and will treat such a presence as equivalent to the occupation,” the source added.

Tensions between Egypt and Israel have risen exponentially after the death of an Egyptian soldier last week in an exchange of fire with Israeli forces who Egyptian security sources said crossed a boundary line while pursuing and killing several Palestinians.

Two Egyptian security sources said a meeting on Sunday of U.S., Egyptian and Israeli officials was positive despite there being no agreement on reopening of the crossing. Egypt’s delegation at the meeting said it would be open to European monitors at the border to oversee its operation by Palestinian authorities if Palestinian authorities agreed to resume work.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said on Sunday Israeli forces were seeking to destroy tunnels between Gaza and Egypt used by Hamas to smuggle in weapons, or possibly as a means to escape the war. Egypt has denied the existence of such tunnels.

Under their peace treaty, Egypt and Israel have cooperated closely on security issues around the borders between Israel, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Gaza. 

Shoukry also called for Hamas and Israel to accept the current proposal for a Gaza ceasefire presented by U.S. President Joe Biden saying that Hamas’ initial comments were positive. “We are now waiting for the Israeli response,” he said.

An aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday Israel had accepted the framework deal for winding down the Gaza war, but described it as flawed and in need of much more work, with Netanyahu saying any deal that involves a permanent ceasefire is a “non-starer”. 

Reuters contributed to this report

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