The Head of the Gaza Border Agency, Maher Abu-Sabha, has refused entry to the EU Mission charged with monitoring the border with Egypt at Rafah. The Mission was planning to return to Gaza after an absence of six years.
Speaking to a Palestinian newspaper, Abu-Sabha insisted that the Rafah Crossing is Palestinian and is under absolute Palestinian sovereignty. "There is no need for an EU mission in Rafah," he said.
EU High representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton said earlier that the EU is thinking about resuming the work of the EU mission at the Rafah Crossing; it was suspended when Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006.
"Why does the EU think that it needs to come back?" asked Abu-Sabha. "Didn't it abandon Palestinian patients who needed the mission's help to cross the border for treatment abroad?"
According to Abu-Sabha, hundreds of Palestinian patients have died since the closure of the crossing in 2006, when the EU mission stopped its work. "The mission's withdrawal provided a strong reason for the PA and Israel to close the crossing," he explained. "If the EU really wants to help the Palestinians, it has to lift the siege imposed on Gaza since 2006 and reconstruct what was destroyed by Israel in the offensives of 2008/9 and 2012."
The EU mission oversaw pedestrian traffic at the Rafah Crossing; it was in place as part of an agreement between the PA and Israel signed in 2005. Both sides agreed to have the mission observers there as a core condition to operate the crossing.