The Egyptian border guards began Sunday sealing off the Gaza-Egypt border line that has seen influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians since January23, after Palestinian fighters knocked down the fence-off iron wall in Rafah, south of Gaza.Eyewitnesses told IMEMC that a large number of Egyptian security guards have been deployed along the Egyptian side of the border and that an iron gate has been erected at the Salah Eldin main entrance, allowing passage of people in and out of Gaza, one by one.

On the Gaza side of the border, scores of Hamas-led police forces have been organizing movement of Palestinians and Egyptians who have stayed in both sides over the past several days, eyewitnesses said.

Senior Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, told reporters yesterday that his ruling movement has been assured by Cairo that the Rafah crossing terminal will be soon reopened regularly.

The Hamas leader was speaking after holding talks in Cairo last week, over responsibility for the reopening of the Rafah terminal, in coordination with the Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas had earlier reiterated its rejection to return of European observers to the Rafah crossing terminal, arguing that the terminal should remain a sovereign Palestinian area, without any intervention from a third party.

The Rafah crossing terminal, the sole outlet to the outside world for Gaza’s 1.5 million residents, has been closed since June of last year, when Israel imposed a closure on the Gaza Strip, right after Hamas took control over there.

Palestinian Persident Mahmoud Abbas, refused Hamas’s position, saying that the Palestinians will accept reinstallation of European monitors within the 2005’s agreement on movement and access (AMA), Washington brokered following the Israeli disengagement from the coastal region in September of that year.

The European Union’s monitors, who left the crossing upon the Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in June2007, voiced willingness to return back, once certain security arrangements are guaranteed.

During its takeover, the Islamist Hamas routed Fatah-loyal security services amidst a power struggle with the secular Fatah party of President Abbas, who embraces a peace strategy.

In January23, majority of the population in Gaza flooded into the Egyptian town of aL-Arish to buy essential supplies such as fuel, after Israel further tightened the siege it has been imposing since June2007.

In September of last year, Israel declared the coastal territory a ‘hostile entity’ and began in October a series of ‘apparently punitive measures’ involving fuel supplies cut, within what Israel says ‘an attempt to stop homemade shells fire’ from the Hamas-ruled Gaza onto southern Israel.