The head of the European observers at the Rafah crossing terminal, General Pietro Pistolese, said Sunday that if Israel continues closure of the Rafah crossing terminal in the southern Gaza Strip, his mission might rethink the presence of 70 observers there.
Pistolese was speaking in an interview with an Israeli daily. The EU official said that the EU’s presence at the crossing has been part of the EU’s investment for the advancement of peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. He said that for Israel to help this investment is useful, as it should keep the crossing opened.
Pistolese denied Israeli claims that the crossing has been used for smuggling weapons to the Gaza Strip and said he had no knowledge that some Palestinians made their ways to neighboring countries for training.
Such remarks came as Palestinians, Israelis and Europeans are currently discussing a possible extension of the Rafah Crossing Agreement, which expires mid-May. The Rafah terminal, which is the sole outlet to the outside world for 1.4 million Palestinians, has only been open a fifth of the time since June 25th 2006- the day an Israeli soldier was taken hostage by Palestinian resistance groups.
Three weeks ago, an elderly Palestinian died and seven others were injured during a crush at the crossing, which was suddenly opened to allow 5,000 stranded travelers to pass in and out of the Gaza Strip.
The European team of observers was installed following a U.S-mediated agreement between Israel and the Palestinians after Israel disengaged form the Gaza Strip in September 2005.