Palestinian official: Gaza border deal reached with Egypt

Palestinians wait to cross the border to the Egyptian side at the Rafah crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip. A senior Palestinian official on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015 (AP)

A senior Palestinian official on Monday said the Palestinian Authority has reached an agreement with Egypt to reopen the Gaza Strip’s main border crossing in an arrangement meant to bypass the territory’s Hamas rulers.

Azzam al-Ahmad, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the deal was reached recently in Cairo. He said it aims to open the Rafah crossing “to the maximum possible” to allow the movement of students, laborers, medical patients and even commercial goods.

Such a deal could bring great relief to Gaza, whose borders are largely sealed by an Israeli and Egyptian blockade. It could also mark a setback for Hamas, which seized control of Gaza from Abbas in 2007. However, a top Hamas official gave the plan a cool reception, raising questions about its viability.

The Rafah crossing is Gaza’s main gateway to the outside world. Few Gazans are permitted to travel through the Israeli border to the north, though Israeli crossings are used to transfer cargo into Gaza.

Azzam said the deal would be implemented in stages beginning in the near future, but he gave no further details.

Hamas remains in full control of Gaza while the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority, which governs in the occupied West Bank, has no presence there. Repeated attempts to reconcile the rival governments have failed.

Last Update: 05:41 KSA 08:41 - GMT 05:41