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‘Abbas, P.A. Committed to Rafah Deal

The Palestinian Authority is still committed to its 2005 agreement with Israel regarding the Rafah terminal on the Egypt-Gaza border, said Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas.

Following talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Hosni Mubarak, in Cairo on Wednesday, ‘Abbas said the “P.A. is committed to all signed agreements with Israel including the old Rafah deal.”

Describing the breach of the Egyptian borders last week as an “invasion,” ‘Abbas also reiterated his rejection for meeting Hamas officials in Cairo.

“Hamas has to go back on its coup and … accept the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority, then hearts and minds will be open for dialogue,” he said, referring to Hamas’s ouster of the P.A. from Gaza last June.

Meanwhile, a Hamas delegation, which is looking for a new deal entitling the group to a role in the border crossing, is due in Cairo today for the first time since last June.

The delegation will be led by Hamas’ Damascus-based chief, Khalid Mash’al, and Gaza leader, Mahmoud A-Zahhar, who were expected to hold talks today with intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and other Egyptian officials.
Hamas refuses to accept any international presence on crossings between Egypt and Gaza, warning that if the Rafah terminal remains closed, the next march will be by half a million people—towards the Israeli Erez crossing in northern Gaza.     

The group’s spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said “any attempt to supplant the vision of Hamas, especially regarding the operation of the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, will yield nothing but failure.”

Under a 2005 deal, the crossing was to be supervised by European Union monitors with cameras allowing Israel to observe those passing through.

Scrambling for a deal between the rivals, Mubarak invited both Hamas and Fatah leaders to Cairo in an attempt to work out new arrangements for reopening the terminal and solving the crisis on Egypt’s borders with Gaza.  

Hundreds of thousands of Gazans swarmed across the border when the border barriers were blown up on January 22 after Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip.

With help from Hamas, the Egyptian forces have managed to bar traffic in the past few days at all but two crossing points.