Hamas has ceded control of Gaza’s three land crossings on Wednesday, honoring agreements with Egypt during mediation between the group and the ruling Fatah movement which specified that control be given to the Palestinian Authority.
The three crossings — Beit Hanoun, Karam Abou Salem, and Rafah — have been managed by Hamas since 2007 after the group won parliamentary elections against Fatah in 2006 and gained control of the Gaza Strip.
Control over the crossings as well as penalties imposed on Hamas by the Fatah government were the most contentious points during the several reconciliation meetings in Cairo, which concluded in October.
In September, Hamas declared the dissolution of its executive office in Gaza, agreeing to transfer control to the national reconciliation government initially formed in 2014. Hamas has also agreed to hold general elections.
In a press conference held in Gaza on Wednesday and attended by Egyptian security officials, Mofid al-Hasayna, the Palestinian Minister of Public Works and Housing, said that “Handing over the crossings is a real step towards reconciliation and ending the division that has ruled for 10 years.”
However, a Hamas official who spoke to Mada Masr on the condition of anonymity had reservations about the execution of the agreement, saying that the Palestinian Authority abruptly asked Hamas to vacate all their facilities near the crossing on Tuesday, including travel offices and security checkpoints.
According to the official, Hamas complied with the authority’s requests. “The Palestinian Authority is expected to demolish the area and build new crossing facilities,” he added, “but what happened suggests that Fatah wants to exclude Hamas altogether instead of collaborate with them.”
Moussa Abou Marzouk, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, voiced similar concerns on his Twitter account today, calling Rafah’s actions “inappropriate,” and cautioning that “any arrangement that lacks respect for the agreement will not succeed.”
Mada Masr acquired photos of the demolition of Hamas offices in the Beit Hanoun and Rafah crossings. Hamas also dismantled a security barrier close to the Beit Hanoun crossing with Israel.
Political analyst Ibrahim al-Madhoun, who has close ties to Hamas, told Mada Masr that the transfer of control over the crossings is a gesture of goodwill by Hamas and that they expect a similar gesture in return the form of lifting the sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip, such as the limits placed on the electricity supply, constraints on money transfers, reductions in employee salaries and the regulation of medical supplies.
Since Hamas took control of the crossings 10 years ago, the Egyptian government has regularly closed the Rafah crossing for prolonged periods, and increased restrictions on those crossing while it is open. The frequency of border closures has increased since 2013.
Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmed told Sout Falasteen radio on Wednesday that Egypt will open its side of the Rafah border on November 15, by the time the ongoing renovations are completed.
Madhoun expects that the opening of the Rafah crossing will act as an incentive to lessen the siege on the Gaza Strip.
*Note: This piece has been edited for clarity since it was originally published.