Egypt official: Qatar building materials enter Gaza
Published yesterday (updated) 29/12/2012 21:08
ISMAILIA, Egypt (Reuters) -- Egypt allowed building materials into Gaza via
the Rafah crossing on Saturday for the first time since Hamas seized control
of the Palestinian enclave in 2007, an Egyptian border official said.
It was part of a shipment of building materials donated by the Gulf Arab
state of Qatar, which has pledged $400 million to finance reconstruction in
Hamas has been hoping that the rise to power in Egypt of a fellow-Islamist
government sympathetic to its cause will lead to a full opening of Rafah to
commercial goods. Egypt's President Muhammad Mursi sent his prime minister
to Gaza last month to show solidarity during a brief war between Hamas and
The Rafah border with Egypt is the only Gaza crossing not controlled by
Israel, which withdrew its settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005. Cairo
has restricted the use of Rafah crossing to travelers and medical relief,
giving rise to extensive smuggling into Gaza through tunnels under the
The border official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that while the
Egyptian authorities had agreed to allow the Qatari-donated material into
Gaza, the shipment did not mark the start of the full opening of the
crossing sought by Hamas.
An official in Gaza's Hamas government said it was a positive step. "We hope
that Egypt will open this crossing permanently for goods so our people can
meet their needs," said Ehab al-Ghsain, head of the Hamas government media
Palestinians said it was the first time anything other than people and
medical supplies had been allowed in since 2006. Six truck loads of building
material had crossed on Saturday, with more expected later in the day, the
Egyptian official said.
The government of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, who was removed from
power by a popular uprising nearly two years ago, looked on Hamas with
suspicion bordering on outright hostility.
Leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood, which propelled Mursi to the presidency
in a June election, had said they backed the idea of opening Rafah to trade.
But Mursi has taken no public steps in that direction since taking office.
Cairo has long feared that opening Rafah fully might prompt Israel to close
permanently the other crossings with Gaza, which it captured from Egypt in
the 1967 Middle East war.
Ghsain said: "Rafah had been closed for goods for so many years and we
always hoped such a policy would change, without exempting the Israeli
occupation from their responsibilities. Israel must end the closure and
reopen all crossings with Gaza."