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Hamas: Border must be controlled exclusively by Palestinians, Egypt
Hamas' Damascus-based political leader Khaled Meshal said Wednesday that his organization would be willing to work to resolve the chaotic situation on the Gaza-Egypt border, but only if the border were placed under exclusive Palestinian and Egyptian control.
Khaled Meshal's comments hours after militants blasted apart the metal wall dividing Egypt from Gaza, and tens of thousands of Palestinians poured into the Sinai Peninsula.
Meshal said Hamas was willing to work with Egypt and his rivals in the Palestinian Authority on bringing order to border area. "We in the Hamas movement and our brothers in the Palestinian government headed by Ismail Haniyeh declare our readiness to reach an understanding with the brothers in Ramallah [Palestinian Authority] and the brothers in Egypt on how to manage those crossings," the Meshal said at a Palestinian conference in the Syrian capital.
"The most important standard for lifting the siege on Gaza is that the Rafah crossing be opened and be purely under the Palestinians and Egyptians without any blackmail," he said.
"We don't want to control anything. We want liberty and relief for our
Palestinian people," he said.
Meshal also called for the Gaza border crossings with Egypt to be purely controlled by Palestinians and Egyptians.
Under a 2006 agreement after Israel pulled out of Gaza, the Palestinian Authority was left in charge of the crossings but with monitors from the European Union supervising. Israel also had cameras and computers installed there to monitor and vet who should cross.
That agreement collapsed when Hamas took over Gaza in June, ousting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah loyalists. Deposed Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas echoed Meshal's comments Wednesday, calling for an urgent meeting with Fatah and with the Egyptian government to work out a new shared arrangement for Gaza's border crossings.
Haniyeh called for an urgent "speedy meeting in Egypt that would reopen the border crossings on the basis of national participation," meaning that Hamas would be prepared to cede some control to Abbas.
"We don't want to be the only ones in control of these matters," Haniyeh said, speaking from his Gaza City office live on Hamas TV.
Egypt: Gazans allowed to cross border because they are starving
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced Wednesday that he had ordered his troops to allow Palestinians to cross into Egypt from Gaza because they were starving.
Speaking at the Cairo International Book fair, Mubarak told reporters that when Palestinians began breaking through the Gaza-Egypt border at Rafah in force, he told his men to let them in to buy food before escorting them out.
"I told them to let them come in and eat and buy food and then return them later as long as they were not carrying weapons," he said, in answer to reporters' questions.
The Palestinians in Gaza are starving due to the Israeli siege," he said. "Egyptians troops accompanied them to buy food and then allowed them to return to the Gaza Strip."
He said Egypt did not intend to withdraw its ambassador from Israel in protest of the blockade of Gaza. "If that happened, I wouldn't be able to talk to the Israelis. One has to be reasonable in such matters," he added.