Translations of this item:

  • It was recently reported that the commander of the Islamic State (ISIS) branch in Sinai held talks in the Gaza Strip with leaders of Hamas's armed wing, the Ezaddin al-Qassam Brigades, about expanding their cooperation.

  • President Abbas does not seem to care whether the Palestinians of Gaza are turned into hostages and prisoners. He is probably hoping that the crisis will drive Palestinians to revolt against the Hamas regime, paving the way for his PA to return to the Gaza Strip.

  • Instead of trying to solve the Gaza crisis, Abbas is too busy waging a diplomatic war against Israel. He wants to file "war crimes" charges against Israel with the International Criminal Court -- ignoring the fact that he and Hamas are responsible for the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza.

  • The Palestinians ignore the fact that their biggest tragedy over the past few decades has been (and remains) their failed and corrupt leadership that is willing to sacrifice them for its own interests.

Since June 2013, the Rafah border crossing, the sole crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, has been closed for most of the time.

Since the beginning of 2015, the Egyptian authorities have opened the Rafah terminal for a total of only 21 days.

Last week, the Egyptians opened the border crossing for two days, allowing a few hundred Palestinians to cross in both directions.

Last year, by contrast, the terminal was open for a total of 123 days, and in 2013 for 263 days.

These figures indicate that the Egyptians have stepped up security measures along their shared border with the Gaza Strip over the past few years.

In addition to the continued closure of the Rafah terminal, the Egyptian army continues to destroy dozens of smuggling tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. In recent weeks, the Egyptians have been pumping seawater into the tunnels, causing most of them to collapse.

The Egyptians have good reason to be concerned about the smuggling tunnels -- especially in light of increased Islamist terror attacks against Egyptian soldiers and civilians in the Sinai Peninsula. Reports about cooperation between Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and the Islamist terror groups in Sinai, have also prompted the Egyptians to keep the Rafah terminal shut for most of the time.

Left: The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Right: A Gazan man works in a smuggling tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border, which was flooded by the Egyptian army.

A report on Israel's Channel 2 last week revealed that Shadi al-Munei, commander of the Islamic State (ISIS) branch in Sinai, recently visited the Gaza Strip for secret talks with Hamas leaders.

According to the report, the ISIS commander held talks with leaders of Hamas's armed wing, the Ezaddin al-Qassam Brigades, about expanding the cooperation between the two groups.

But there is another reason the Egyptians insist on keeping the Rafah terminal shut, leaving thousands of Palestinians stranded on both sides of the border: the ongoing power struggle between Hamas and Fatah.

Before blaming the Egyptians for the predicament of the residents of the Gaza Strip, Palestinians need, for a change, to hold their leaders responsible for their continued suffering.

In recent weeks, it has become evident that the Hamas-Fatah dispute is the main reason behind the continued closure of the Rafah border crossing.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi does not trust Hamas; that is the reason he is not prepared to reopen the terminal on a permanent basis.

Sisi recently told Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas that Egypt would be prepared to reopen the terminal permanently only if Hamas relinquishes control over the Palestinian side of the border and allows PA forces to take control of it, as was the situation before the summer of 2007, when the Islamist movement seized control over the entire Gaza Strip.

While Sisi does not trust Hamas, it is worth noting that Hamas does not trust the PA and Abbas. Hamas does not want to see Abbas's security forces return to the Gaza Strip in any way, even if that means keeping thousands of Palestinians stranded on both sides of the border and living in an open-air prison.

"Hamas will never hand control over the terminal to the filthy hands that betrayed the Palestinians," explained Salah Bardaweel, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip. "Hamas can't sell its people to these hands, regardless of the price." He also claimed that Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have been paying bribes to PA officials in the West Bank to obtain permission from the Egyptian authorities to cross through the Rafah terminal.

By refusing to cede control over the border crossing with Egypt, Hamas is in fact holding the entire population of the Gaza Strip as hostages. Hamas is saying, "We either continue to manage the Rafah terminal, or no one leaves or enters the Gaza Strip." The most Hamas is prepared to accept is an arrangement that allows it to manage the terminal in partnership with the PA -- an idea to which Abbas remains strongly opposed.

According to the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry, about 25,000 Palestinians need to leave the Gaza Strip through the Rafah terminal for "humanitarian reasons." Still, Hamas is not prepared to make any concessions to alleviate the suffering of its people.

Abbas, for his part, does not really seem to care whether the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip are turned into hostages and prisoners. In fact, he is probably hoping that the crisis will drive Palestinians to revolt against the Hamas regime, paving the way for his PA to return to the Gaza Strip.

Instead of trying to solve the crisis in the Gaza Strip, Abbas is too busy waging a diplomatic war against Israel in the international arena. He wants to file "war crimes" charges against Israel with the International Criminal Court, while ignoring the fact that he and Hamas are responsible for the suffering of tens of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas-Fatah dispute has turned the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip into hostages and prisoners. The Palestinians will never be able to solve their problems as long as they continue to ignore the fact that their biggest tragedy over the past few decades has been (and remains) their failed and corrupt leadership that is willing to sacrifice them for its own interests.

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Related Topics:  Egypt, Palestinian Authority
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