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Egypt Gaza border patrol agreed
by BBC (reposted)
Wednesday Aug 24th, 2005 7:49 PM
Israel and Egypt have finalised a deal under which Egyptian border guards will patrol the southern Gaza border.
Gen Amos Gilad told Israeli radio the agreement would be signed after it was approved by the government and Knesset.

Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz has said all Israeli soldiers will be out of the Gaza Strip within a month, completing the disengagement plan.

But Mr Mofaz warned that it was too soon to expect further withdrawals in the West Bank.

For his part, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said he expected Israel forces to leave Gaza by 4 October, or sooner.

Border agreement

Agreement was reached in principle on 1 August, but differences over Egypt's responsibility towards Gaza have only now been resolved.

It came two days after the eviction of Jewish settlers from Gaza ended.

All of the 8,500 or so settlers were removed in a six-day operation completed on Monday.

Areas along the Gaza-Israel border have been the focus of fierce fighting throughout almost five years of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Later on Wednesday, Mr Abbas will meet President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

They are due to discuss getting Israeli agreement for air, sea and land links from the Gaza Strip.

Mr Abbas arrived in Egypt on Tuesday through the territory's only international border crossing.

Minute detail

Gen Gilad said both sides had reached a "very detailed agreement down to the last pistol".

Some 750 Egyptian troops will patrol the border after Israel pulls soldiers out of the area, scene of frequent clashes with militants.

Israel has insisted for months that Egypt must boost its security presence at the border, along the so-called "Philadelphi route" buffer zone that divides Gaza from Egypt.

The deal came after Egypt promised not to transfer weapons to the Palestinian Authority after the pullout.
by more
Thursday Sep 1st, 2005 12:29 PM
The Palestinians agreed Thursday that Israel can retain control over goods coming into Gaza to safeguard against arms smuggling, yielding a key point on border arrangements after Israel completes its Gaza pullout this month.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser Al Kidwa said Israel could exercise some control over goods but not over people entering Gaza, while Israel insists it must also have the power to keep militants out. Even so, the Palestinian gesture was the first sign of progress toward solving the issue of border crossings — vital for Palestinians, who would otherwise be penned into the seaside territory.

The progress came on a day of two other developments — the signing of an agreement to post 750 Egyptian troops along the Gaza-Egypt border and allow an Israeli pullback, and the first public meeting of Israeli and Pakistani foreign ministers.

Up to now, Israel has controlled entry and exit of people and goods at the terminal near the Gaza town of Rafah, the only way for Gazans to leave or enter without passing through Israel. The Israeli presence especially rankled Palestinians as a symbol of Israel's occupation.

Israel suggested setting up a separate crossing at Gaza's junction with the Egyptian and Israeli borders, where goods and people could enter Gaza under Israeli supervision, while the Rafah crossing, without an Israeli presence, would serve as the exit. Palestinians rejected that.

Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, Al Kidwa said the Rafah crossing "should work for individuals, for people in both directions, and must work for goods in at least one direction, out of Gaza. We would consider goods to enter in the way Israel has proposed."

In Cairo, meanwhile, Israeli and Egyptian army officers signed a protocol to turn patrolling the Gaza-Egypt border over to Egypt, which will post 750 lightly armed border police there. The deployment is to begin Sunday, Israeli officials said. Israeli forces are expected to withdraw by the end of the year.

Israel's parliament approved the deal by a comfortable margin Wednesday.

Egypt has given Israel assurances it will block arms smuggling, but the difficulty of monitoring the frontier was evident even when Israel had total control, and smuggling was rampant through tunnels dug through the soft Mediterranean sand.

Israeli forces discovered and destroyed dozens of such tunnels during more than four years of Palestinian-Israeli violence.

Israel reaped its first diplomatic reward for the Gaza pullout when the Israeli and Pakistani foreign ministers met in the neutral venue of Istanbul, Turkey, on Thursday. It was the first acknowledged high-level meeting between the Jewish state and the overwhelmingly Muslim country.

Israeli officials said the meeting between Israel's Silvan Shalom and his Pakistan counterpart Khursheed Kasuri was arranged at the request of Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in the Indian subcontinent, in response to Israel's Gaza pullout.

However, Musharraf said full diplomatic relations are not on the horizon. "Pakistan will not recognize Israel until the establishment of a free and independent state for the Palestinian people," he told Pakistani reporters.

Another benefit for Israel may come next week if contacts are successful to arrange a visit by Jordan's King Abdullah to Jerusalem, Israel Radio and the Maariv newspaper reported. A senior Israeli official said that in principle, the king is willing to visit.