JNN 01 May 2011 Rafah : Egyptian Military rulers have decided to open the Rafah Crossing on Permanent Basis to ease the suffering of the Palestinian People. While they have warned Israel against interfering with its plan to permanently open the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip.
Egypt’s Chief of Staff of armed forces Sami Anan says the opening of Rafah is not a matter of Tel Aviv’s concern.
“Israel does not have the right to interfere in Egypt’s decision to open the Rafah border. This is an Egyptian-Palestinian issue,” Anan wrote on his Facebook page.
On Thursday, Egypt announced a plan to open the border crossing within days.
The move will allow the flow of people and goods in and out of Gaza without Israeli permission or supervision.
The blockade was imposed after Hamas took control of Gaza, four years ago.
Egypt has kept the crossing largely closed since Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2007.
The announcement marks a significant shift in the foreign policy of Egypt. Under former President Mubarak who was a stanch US and Israeli aly , the Egyptian government opposed the Hamas administration in Gaza and helped Israel to enforce the blockade.
The blockade of Gaza was a very controversial policy. It was widely viewed as a form of collective punishment of the population of the strip because of the hardships it caused.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said in 2010 that the blockade was a clear violation of international humanitarian law.
The crippling blockade on the territory has triggered a humanitarian crisis.
The siege has left nearly one and a half million Gazans in dire need of basic supplies.
The current Egyptian government may only be an interim one, but it is implementing the greatest shift in Egypt’s foreign policy for three decades, says the BBC’s Jonathan Head in Cairo.
Under Mr Mubarak Egypt strongly upheld its unpopular peace treaty with Israel, and opposed Hamas in the internal Palestinian power-struggle.
The new government, though, has already helped broker a reconciliation agreement between the two Palestinian factions.
Under the US-backed former dictator Hosni Mubarak regime, Egypt consistently served Israeli interests and objectives by helping to impose the crippling blockade on the impoverished Gaza strip after the democratically elected Hamas government took control of the territory in 2007.
An Israeli attack on Gaza in 2009 killed over 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including countless women and children. However, even during the offensive, Egypt failed to open the crossing.
Egypt’s political parties say the Gaza blockade serves American and Israeli objectives in the region and threatens regional stability and independence.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi had earlier said Cairo was preparing to permanently open the Rafah border crossing in a move that would allow people and goods to enter and exit the Gaza Strip.
Israeli vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom has voiced outrage at Egypt’s decision to permanently reopen the Rafah border crossing into the Gaza Strip.
“It’s a worrying development… The reopening of the Rafah crossing could allow the passage of arms and terrorists and we must prepare for important changes both in Egypt and at the regional level,” AFP quoted Shalom as saying on Israel’s public radio on Sunday.
On Thursday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi announced plans to permanently open the previously blocked Rafah crossing within 10 days.
Al-Arabi said that the decision was aimed at easing the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip and alleviating the “blockade and suffering of the Palestinian people.”
Over 1.5 million people in the coastal strip have been living under an Israeli siege since June 2007.
The plan indicates a change in policy following Egypt’s February revolution which ousted the longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.
The Rafah crossing is the only entry and exit point into Gaza that bypasses Israel.
This decision has alarmed Israel, which has already condemned the deal with Hamas, our correspondent says.
Egypt is also talking about repairing its frosty relations with Iran, and upgrading ties with African countries which share its dependence on the waters of the River Nile.
A recent opinion poll showed most Egyptian respondents in favour of ending the peace treaty with Israel – but the new government has said on many occasions that it will honour existing international agreements.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly plans to send an envoy to Cairo to express his concern to Egypt’s interim government.
Tel Aviv has also voiced concerns over a unity deal between Palestinian rival factions of Fatah and Hamas.
The two factions announced on Friday that they would sign a deal on May 4 in Cairo to form a unity government.