Egypt opened its border crossing with the Gaza Strip on Saturday, ending the four-year blockade on the territory and marking a new era of relations between Cairo, Israel, and the Palestinians.
According to Al Jazeera, some restrictions will still be enforced: While all women, children, and men over the age of 40 will be allowed to pass freely and stay in Gaza for one month without visas, men between the ages of 18 and 40 will need to obtain an Egyptian visa from its embassy in Ramallah in order to cross the border. Moreover, Egypt will continue to restrict the shipment of all commercial goods into Gaza, although officials say they hope to soon open the border to some goods.
Palestinians leaving through the Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt.
The restrictions have done little to assuage Israeli and American security officials, however, who believe Hamas will use the crossing to smuggle arms and even trained specialists into Gaza. “One trainer who tells them how to set up the rockets and how to use them is equal to a large quantity of weapons,” said Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defense Ministry official.
According to reports, 450 people crossed into Egypt during the first day the border was open, and 23 were refused entry because of security concerns. On Sunday, Hamas confirmed that it will not ask international observers to supervise the border as was previously the case under a 2005 agreement between the Palestinian Authority, the EU, and Israel. According to Israeli Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, Israel will now hold Egypt responsible for security at the border.
By opening its crossing with Gaza on Saturday, Egypt’s interim government has taken yet another step closer to Hamas while moving away from Israel. It is an ominous sign of what is to come. As this blog previously noted, with Egypt’s foreign policy direction changing, it’s time that Washington clarifies to Cairo that its cozying-up with Hamas will bring about unwanted consequences.