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Rafah border fails to reopen as planned

A senior Palestinian official announced yesterday that the reopening of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt has been postponed, citing ongoing Egyptian security concerns.

Azzam el-Ahmad, head of the Fatah delegation to the dialogue with Hamas, said that the reopening was postponed because of the security situation in Sinai. The reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA), signed in Cairo on 12 October, said the Rafah crossing would permanently reopen on 15 November. On 1 November at the ceremony to hand over the Rafah crossing to the PA, Husein al-Sheikhm, the PA minister for civil affairs confirmed that the Rafah crossing would be fully operational by 15 November.

On Tuesday, 90 PA police officers and passport officials arrived at the crossing point to make final preparations for its reopening. Mohamad al-Magadma, the official in the Palestinian civil liaison committee, said that the Palestinian side at Rafah was fully ready, well-prepared and well-equipped to operate the crossing point of Rafah.

Israeli security analyst Yoni Ben-Menachem believes that a serious point of contention remains is the relevance of a 2005 agreement on Movement and Access. The agreement established a European Union Border Assistance Mission for the Rafah Crossing Point (EUBAM) to monitor the border and strengthen liaison between Palestinian, Israeli, and Egyptian authorities to manage the crossing. Israel, the PA and Egypt want this agreement to be enforced but Hamas is against the idea.

Egypt is expected to host another meeting of Palestinian factions in Cairo on 21 November to discuss next steps in the reconciliation process. The PA is due to take over full civil control of the Gaza Strip by 1 December.