The main border crossing between Egypt and Gaza will reopen once Egyptian authorities hand over control to the Palestinian Authority, the Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, Wael Attia, reportedly told Egypt’s Al-Resalah news site Thursday. Egypt closed the Rafah border crossing — Gaza’s main portal to the world — last year amid growing tensions with Hamas, the radical Islamist group that governs the Gaza Strip.
"The implementation of what was agreed regarding the management of the crossings is the key to reopening them permanently," Attia said in a statement to Al-Resalah, according to the Middle East Monitor.
Attia stressed Thursday that Egypt would continue sponsoring the Palestinian reconciliation efforts and whoever hinders handing over the crossing to the Palestinian Authority would prolong Palestinian suffering in Gaza. "Egypt continues to play this role and when the parties are ready and serious about moving this file and implementing what was agreed upon, Egypt will invite them to meet again," he reportedly said. "Parties that wish to withdraw from the reconciliation talks should openly do so.”
Hamas leaders said Egypt is unfit to sponsor reconciliation talks, after an Egyptian court last week deemed the Palestinian group a “terrorist” organization and banned their activities. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri denounced Egypt’s judiciary decision and said it “is shocking, critical and targets the Palestinian people and Palestinian resistance forces,” Al Jazeera reported at the time.
Mustafa Barghouti, an independent senior Palestinian official, told Al Jazeera the verdict “is a very unwise decision” because “Hamas is part of the Palestinian national unity movement, and this decision is not useful.”
Egyptian Justice Minister Mahfouz Saber said Tuesday Hamas members in Cairo will be arrested and prosecuted and their headquarters and assets will be seized, the Daily News Egypt reported. Attia said Egypt will likely have special arrangements for Hamas officials who wish to attend reconciliation meetings in the country, according to the Middle East Monitor.
Egypt’s relationship with Hamas soured in July 2013 after the military-led ousting of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a longtime leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia have since declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group, according to BBC News.
A fragile, open-ended ceasefire has held between Hamas and Israel since Egypt brokered the agreement in August, concluding 50 days of warfare that killed more than 2,200 people and displaced hundreds of thousands. Hamas militants control the Gaza Strip and deny Israel’s right to exist, as well as the Palestinian Authority. Hamas has sought to create an Islamic state in the area that is currently Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip — land the Palestinian Authority has claimed to create a sovereign state, according to the Washington Post.