PA allows Hamas
leaders into Gaza
New York – The Israeli Defense Minister Sha’ul Mofaz warned the Palestinian Authority (PA) today that if proper control over the Egypt-Gaza border is not put in place, then Israel will close the Israel-Gaza border. Following a visit to the Rafah and Kerem Shalom checkpoints between Gaza and neighboring Egypt, Mofaz said that border control was incomplete and warned, “If the situation does not improve and the Palestinians don’t cooperate, we will close the … crossings. They will become international borders, with all that that entails. I hope that the Palestinians understand the significance of such a step” (Arutz 7, November 30).
Mofaz’s warning comes following the entry to the Gaza Strip of several senior figures in the Islamist terrorist group, Hamas, since Israel unilaterally pulled out of the area in September. This week, a senior Hamas official, Fadel Zahar, who previously lived abroad, crossed into the Gaza Strip through Egypt only days after the reopening of the Rafah border crossing. Zahar is the first high-ranking Hamas official known to have returned since last week’s reopening of the Rafah crossing. He was deported from the Gaza Strip in 1991. His brother, Mahmoud Zahar, is the top leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip (Jerusalem Post, November 29).
Other Hamas members who have returned to Gaza since Israel’s withdrawal include:
- Rafik al-Hasanat: a senior member of Hamas and member of its Izzaddin al-Kassam Brigade, who has been wanted by Israel for more than a decade, crossed through Rafah last week.
- Sheikh Ahmed al-Milh: one of the founders of Hamas, returned in October to the Gaza Strip after spending 20 years in different Arab countries.
- Nihro Masoud: a founder of Hamas’ Izzaddin al-Kassam Brigade, who fled to Egypt 14 years ago and spent most of his time in Sudan, returned to Gaza in September.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The ZOA has warned repeatedly that Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and relinquishing control of the border crossings would be dangerous for Israel’s security, resulting in the movement of terrorists and weaponry into Gaza. Tragically, this is exactly what is happening, as we can see from the stream of senior Hamas members who are returning to Gaza from abroad.
“The recent agreement on the operation of the Rafah border crossing makes it even easier for terrorists to enter Gaza. This agreement not only denies Israel a veto on the entry of any people and goods through Rafah but also limits the role of European Union (EU) personnel to monitoring. The EU monitors can require Palestinian Authority (PA) officials to re-examine baggage or vehicles but cannot order them to deny passage to individuals or goods. In short, Israel has lost control of the entry of terrorists and weaponry and this is becoming starkly clear by the return of senior Hamas figures.
“We strongly renew our call upon the Bush Administration to exert maximum pressure upon Mahmoud Abbas’ PA to live up to its obligations under signed agreements and the Roadmap peace plan to combat terrorism by disarming and jailing terrorists, dismantling their infrastructure and preventing the entry of terrorists and weaponry into PA-controlled areas. If in the near term the PA refuses to fulfill these obligations, we urge the Bush to end all aid to and negotiations with PA.
“We also urge the Bush Administration to apply similar pressure on Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak to ensure that Egypt lives up to its commitments to fully co-operate in the prevention of terrorism. It is deeply worrying that, in addition to the PA permitting terrorists to enter Gaza, Egypt is permitting these terrorists to reach the Gaza border crossings in the first place.
“The ZOA strongly supports Defense Minister Mofaz’s warning to the PA that Israel will seal the Gaza-Egypt border completely unless there is an immediate improvement in the security situation. The serious deterioration in Israeli security as a result of the transfer of border controls to the PA demands nothing less and we urge the Israeli government to act on Defense Minister Mofaz’s warning if terrorists and weaponry continue to enter Gaza.”