Wissam Afifeh, Palestine News Network
The opening of the Rafah border terminal gives thousands of Palestinians new hopes as they cross into Egypt and meet with their families and relatives, while the Israeli police barred Palestinian families from meeting relatives living abroad since they do not carry Palestinian identity cards.
The agreements reached two weeks ago between the Palestinian Authority and Israel to open the Rafah terminal is put to the test in the extent it fulfils the Palestinian aspirations and reams, especially since it is monitored by Israel.
The Israeli authorities barred hundreds of Palestinians who do not carry Palestinian identity cards from entering the Gaza Strip.
Awatif Ibrahim, from Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, said that she was hoping that the opening of the crossing will allow her husband, who was unable to enter the Gaza Strip since ten years, to cross and unite with his family.
“He tried to enter, he tried to be with us again”, Ibrahim said, “but he was unable to cross as a result of these Israeli unjust laws and regulations”
In spite of the apparent happiness on the faces of the residents who managed to cross between the Palestinians and Egyptian parts of Rafah, after the crossing was opened, anger and tiredness are noticed now, especially since the crossing is only operating for four hours while thousands of residents are flooding trying to enter or leave the Gaza Strip.
“Dozens of residents carrying travel documents and Visas gathered in front of the crossing from the Egyptian side”, a resident said, “But they were not allowed to cross into Gaza”.
The residents were removed from the crossing by the Egyptian police after the Rafah terminal’s “opening hours” were over.
Israel left the terminal, and does not control it any more…physically, but the Israeli soldiers are still present in another form, they and their surveillance cameras are still determining entry and exit, they are still determining who enters and who remains out!
Palestinian Civil Minister, Mohammad Dahlan, said that there are no blacklists of names at the crossing, barring the residents from entering, unless those who are wanted from legal issues.
“Only residents who carry Palestinian identity cards are allowed to cross”, Dahlan said, “businessmen, senior officials and gusts, in addition to humanitarian cases, can cross too”
Dahlan added that Omar Suleiman, head of the Egyptian intelligence promised to ease restrictions on the Egyptian side, yet the real test is what the residents have to go through.
Resident Nasif Al Afif, who lives in Saudi Arabia, did not stop phoning his family after he learnt that the crossing was opened, but since his family left the Gaza Strip in 1967, he needs a special document which should be given to the Palestinians who left the Palestinian areas during the 1967 war.
But the Palestinian-Israeli agreement on operating the Rafah Crossing does not allow, in the current period, the entry of residents who carry passports, and not Palestinian identity cards.
This issue remained unsolved, and awaits a solution in the future talks, and needs the intervention of a third party; the European observers who run the crossing along with the Palestinian Authority.
This issue, among several other issues, remains dependant on the developments in the area, directly affected by the internal conditions in Israel.
Residents who managed to cross, and reached the Palestinian side of the terminal expressed satisfaction over the quick procedures.
They only spent several minutes at the crossing, without any complications of delays at the Palestinian side.
The European supervision committee monitoring the Rafah terminal said that 1587 residents managed to cross on the first day during the four hours period during which the crossing was opened.
Also, several residents were worried about travel restrictions imposed by Israel, and barring the residents from leaving the Gaza Strip.
Resident Rami Mahmoud, was not allowed to leave the Gaza Strip before the Israeli pullout, he even was not allowed to move between the several parts of the Gaza Strip.
“I hope the Palestinians will not have similar lists Israeli authorities had, and used in barring us from traveling”, Rami said, “I hope there is no Palestinian-Israeli, or Palestinian –Egyptian, cooperation on this issue”.
“I was always barred from traveling for security reasons, I hope things will be different”, he added.
The agreement states that security cooperation should be resumed between Israel and the P.A, in addition to cooperation with the U.S and Egypt.
The P.A has to take into consideration any information provided to them by Israel regarding residents attempting to cross, before allowing or barring them from crossings.
Palestinian analysts, Hani Habib, said that the situation is not much different; the army is not there, but it is monitoring the crossing through its surveillance cameras and controlling the fate of the residents.
“If Israel starts to interfere directly, which is expected, it will be in order to prove to the residents, and their crossing, are still under Israeli control”, Habib said, “These procedures would only exist to remind the residents that they are still living in a big prison, and still under Israeli control”.
Meanwhile, Dahlan said that the issue of sovereignty was delayed until the final status peace talks, and that the terminal’s agreement states that the crossing should be under Palestinian control.
Hamas Spokesmen, Sami Abu Zuhri, stated that the opening of the crossing is considered part of the victory of the Palestinian struggle towards independence and full liberation.
Commenting on the E.U supervision, Abu Zuhri said that the movement, and the people will have to “wait and see” if the crossing is really under the Palestinian control without foreign intervention.