Israel will turn the Philadelphi Route along the Gaza-Egypt border over to the Egyptians if they stop Palestinian arms smuggling, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Monday during a trip to the United States.

“If Egypt stops the smuggling, Israel will be glad to leave this area." Sharon told Israel Bonds leaders in New York.

Olmert: “After withdrawal, Egypt could control Rafah Crossing”

Israeli deputy Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, said that Israel is willing to give up control of the Rafah Crossing to Egypt, a few months after withdrawal.

“The Rafah borders crossing, between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, could be gradually handed to Egypt within a few months after Gaza pullout”, Olmert said.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Ahmad Abu al-Gheit, said that Egypt plans to deploy 750 Egyptian soldiers on the border crossing; the number will be decided in accordance understandings with Israel.

Also, Abu al-Gheit added that 1500-2000 Egyptian troops would be deployed alongside the borders “in order to ensure an orderly withdrawal”.

The Israeli government plans to begin implementing withdrawal mid-August, this will include evacuating thousands of Gaza Strip settlers.

The statements of Olmert came during the World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea resort of Jordan.

Olmert added that the Egyptian troops will eventually be of full control over the crossing, since the Israeli army “will withdraw a few months after pullout”. 

Meanwhile, Mohammad Dahlan, Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister, described the remarks of Olmert as “a good step”, adding that the P.A welcomes handing the crossing to Egypt of even to the P.A, “what is important to us, is not seeing Israeli soldiers controlling the lives of 1.3 Million residents in Gaza”, Dahlan added.

Also, the Israeli Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom said that Israel wants guarantees the resistance groups would not use Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal as “a launching pad for attacks”.

Shalom added that the P.A will have control over the Gaza Airport if they assure to Israel that it will be not used for attacks against Israel, according to Shalom.

It is worth mentioning that the Israel army repeatedly shelled the Gaza International Airport during the past four years.