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Hamas reinforces presence near Rafah Crossing

Oil trucks enter the Gaza Strip from the Rafah border crossing as part of the triple agreement between Egypt, Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan, in Rafah, Gaza on 21 June 2017 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]
Oil trucks enter the Gaza Strip from the Rafah border crossing as part of the triple agreement between Egypt, Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan, in Rafah, Gaza on 21 June 2017 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

Hamas has reinforced its armed presence near the Rafah Border Crossing and the Israeli army is worried, Egypt’s Almesryoon.com news website has reported. The details originated on Israel’s Wallah website.

The Israeli news site said that the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement has built a military base near the border crossing and is likely to control the passage of vehicles in the area. It noted that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) believe that this is the first time that the armed wing of Hamas has had a military presence in this area.

Speculation surrounds the move. Reports suggest that it could be a result of the latest Palestinian Authority (PA) and Egyptian meetings. The PA wants to keep Hamas away from the work of the crossing when it is open.

Last week, PA President Mahmoud Abbas visited Cairo and met Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. This came after two senior Hamas delegations also went to Cairo for meetings with Egyptian officials who agreed to ease the siege on Gaza and open the crossing soon.

Read: Abbas arrives in Cairo ahead of meeting with Sisi

Wallah thinks that Hamas has built the base as a pre-emptive measure in case it is excluded from running the crossing; at the very least, it will have a presence nearby. Israel apparently believes that Hamas, led by Yahya Al-Sinwar, is working to change the terms of how the crossing operates, which were agreed by Israel, Egypt and the PA years ago.

As there is an agreement between Egypt and the Palestinians to open the crossing for people and goods, the Israeli website expects that the PA will accept commissioned staff to run the crossing in order to keep Hamas and those who are loyal to former Fatah official Mohamed Dahlan away from Rafah. If Hamas is able to operate near to the crossing, explained Wallah, then Cairo fears that this will be interpreted as the Egyptian government’s recognition of the movement, even while it is blacklisted.

According to the reports, Hamas will be obliged to stop its alleged support for Daesh in Sinai and attacks on border crossings, and reduce the number of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.

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