Israel closed on Thursday the Rafah Border Crossing between Gaza and Egypt, in order to allow the deployment of Palestinian and Egyptian forces on the Philadilphi Route along the borders.
The move comes one day after the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, approved the Egyptian proposal on the feature of the border, following the Israeli pullout.
Also, the Israeli cabinet will be asked on Sunday to approve the early withdrawal, and the army evacuation from the Philadilphi Route, on the Gaza-Egypt borders.
Yet, one problem remains unsolved, and could delay the Israeli pullout; the fate of synagogues in the Gush Katif settlement bloc.
The Israeli High Court of Justice ordered the government to try to obtain international guarantees that would allow the synagogue to remain in the settlement, even after Israeli completely evacuates from the Gaza Strip.
Israel to close the Rafah border Crossing
Saed Bannoura – IMEMC & Agencies
Israeli Defense Minister, Shaul Mofaz, ordered on Wednesday the closure of the Rafah Border Crossing which links the Gaza Strip with Egypt, until further notice.
Israeli army radio reported that the Israeli ministerial committee in charge of disengagement decided that the Palestinians can use the Kerem Shalom crossing to enter the Gaza Strip under European supervision while Israel would monitor the crossing through surveillance cameras.
The crossing will be closed starting on Thursday.
So far Israel did not set a date for reopening the Rafah Crossing, or the arrangement to enable the residents leave the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian officials said that this is a unilateral Israel procedure, and they were informed of the decision on Wednesday.
Palestinian officials said it was a unilateral Israeli move, P.a sources predict that the coming days might whiteness an agreement with the Israeli side regarding operating the Rafah Crossing, which is considered one of the thorniest issues in talks between the two sides.
The army will completely close the Rafah Border Crossing in the coming days while soldiers evacuate from the Gaza Strip and hand the settlement areas to the P.A.
So far, it is not clear whether the P.A agreed on using the Kerem Shalom crossing, which Israel is currently constructing, near the Rafah Crossing; Kerem Shalom will be used for entry of residents and good into the Gaza Strip.
The P.A insists that it should control the Rafah Border crossing along with Egyptian forces, and expressed willingness to accept the presence of a third party to monitor it, as long as this party is not Israel.
Israel might accept the Egyptian proposal over Gaza border
Saed Bannoura – IMEMC & Agencies
Senior Israeli government sources reported on Tuesday that Israel is leaning toward accepting the Egyptian proposal on border control at the Gaza Egypt frontier following the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.
According to the suggested proposal, Egypt will declare the closure of the Rafah Border Crossing for renovations which will last between six and nine months, while the movement of people and goods will be relocated to a new terminal which Israel intends to build at Keren Shalom.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
After the renovations are concluded, the Rafah Border Crossing will reopen only for the passage of people, and will be under the control of Egyptian border inspectors.
Israel will install surveillance cameras at the crossing in order to keep track on the people entering the Gaza Strip, an Israeli source reported.
Also, Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, intends to hold talks with his Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and the head of security services in order to discuss the Gaza Crossings and the timing of completing the Gaza evacuation.
Israel might postpone the handover until the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, returns from the United Nations summit.
Israel suggested that the Palestinians will have free movement out of the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Crossing, but wants to monitor the entry of goods and people entering the Gaza Strip through the new terminal at Kerem Shalom.
Also, Israel warned that if it was unable to monitor the entry to Gaza, it will exclude the Gaza Strip from the customs envelope encompassing the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and threatened to tighten checks at the crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
The P.A expressed willingness to have Israel customs control over goods crossing through the Keren Shalom Crossing, but insists on free crossing of people through the Rafah Border Crossing, and expressed readiness for European border monitors.
Israel will charge customs for the P.A on Kerem Shalom for a period of 12 months.
The plan which was put forth by James Wolfensohn, the Quartet’s Middle-East envoy, states that the Palestinian will enjoy full free movement through the Rafah Crossing after a period of two to three months.
Wolfensohn, during his talks with Israeli security officials, said that the security responsibility will be handed over to the Egyptian and Palestinians after the Israeli army leaves the Philadilphi route between Gaza and the Egyptian border, and Israel will not be able to monitor the crossing.
Wolfensohn is slated to meet with Abbas and Mofaz on Sunday, in an attempt to reach a compromise with the two sides.
Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian source reported on Tuesday evening, that the P.A and Israel agreed to completely close the Rafah Border Crossing in the coming days, while the Israeli army evacuates from the Gaza Strip, and starts handing the settlements over to the P.A.