The recent black list, which has effectively barred 15 leaders of military wings from traveling via the Rafah border crossing, has created a new crisis in light of threats by the popular resistance committees to open new alternative crossings. The threat was made by the committee’s head, Jamal Abu Samhadaneh, whose name was on the list.
The threat is expected to put both the Palestinian Authority and Egypt in an awkward position, reminiscent of the popular response of the Gazans after Israel evacuated its settlements and settlers and how they surged to the Egyptian border crossing over to the other side as an expression of victory and a freedom of movement for the people.
In statements to PNN, secretary general of the Popular Resistance Committees, Jamal Abu Samhadaneh explained that he was prohibited from traveling to Mecca to perform the Hajj, saying his name was on a list of people banned from traveling via the crossing. Others blacklisted include head of the Iz Ed Deen Al Qassam Brigades Ahmad Jabari and head of the Al Quds Brigades Khaled Dahdouh.
The crossing was opened on November 25 after six months of marathon negotiations between PA representatives and Israel both before and after the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. An agreement was announced for the Rafah Crossing in particular and the other Gaza Strip crossings in general under the sponsorship of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Quartet Committee envoy James Wolfehnson.
The issue of the black list remained ambiguous and unconfirmed by minister of civil affairs Mohammed Dahlan in regards to the Palestinians allowed to cross Rafah.
“This is an unjust decision,” said Abu Samhadaneh. “But despite my shock, this only reconfirms that there is a continuation of “shameful and humiliating” agreements being signed by the PA over the past 10 years,”
He continued, “Some tried to delude themselves that a great achievement for the Palestinian people had been reached. But this is not an achievement, only a reconfirmation of the domination over the Palestinians; that we are still under occupation. It is a reconfirmation that we live in a large prison and Israel is in control of its gates and decides who enters and who exits.”
After the agreement was signed, the civil affairs minister said in a press conference that the outcome was “the best the Palestinian negotiators could get.” Many Palestinian factions considered the agreement to be lacking any Palestinian sovereignty.
These considerations were well placed. The agreement included conditions such as a recorded transmission through monitoring cameras via the European observers. Palestinian and Israeli officers would monitor the cameras from a control room several kilometers away.
Movement across the crossing was limited to Palestinians with an ID card in addition to diplomats, foreign investors and international organization teams. Humanitarian cases could also cross on condition of obtaining prior permits.
The black list was kept out of the declared conditions of the agreement. The Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, however, did publish at the time that the agreement allows the Israeli side to intercept the entrance of any person Israel believes is suspicious and can arrest him as long as the European observers are convinced of the intelligence information presented to them.
The report also said Israel would present a list of people prohibited from entering or exiting the Strip.
The newspaper said the agreement allows Israel to present a list of wanted Palestinians and that the two sides agreed that any person whose name was on the list, which would be formulated according to international standards, would be arrested upon arriving at the Rafah Crossing.
Observers say although the agreement looks as if it is being run under Palestinian and Egyptian sovereignty, Israeli hands have a major role in controlling what goes on at the crossing through the cameras that transmit live to the Israeli side. In addition, only Palestinians with Palestinian ID’s are allowed to cross the border. On paper, the agreement says that for the first time, the Palestinians are controlling the border.
Dahlan has said that the agreement signed between the Palestinian and Israeli sides under American sponsorship stipulates that the crossing is under Palestinian responsibility while the issue of sovereignty would be left until final status negotiations given that Gaza is still under occupation.
The most recent threat of the Popular Resistance Committees may not be limited to sabotaging the border crossing as expected even though Abu Samhadaneh did not disclose the nature of the response. He did say, however, that the Nasser Brigades are planning escalatory steps and that independent Palestinian crossings would be opened between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
“This will be our holiday surprise for the Palestinians,” Abu Samhadaneh said. “There will be a Palestinian decision by which we will decide who can leave and who cannot.” He would not give any other details about this “surprise” but said “everyone would know about it when the time comes."