formally handed control of Gaza’s border crossings to the Palestine Authority today, Wednesday, in the first major step taken following reconciliation talks last month with Fatah.
The PA’s official for the crossings, Nazmi Muhanna, was handed control of the borders in a ceremony at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. Egyptian and Palestinian flags flew at the crossing, which also displayed portraits of PA president Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
PA minister Mufeed al-Husayn spoke at the ceremony, where he thanked Egypt for brokering the deal with Hamas.
“There is no yellow and green [the colours of both factions]. All our Palestinian people are under the Palestinian flag,” he added.
Gaza has experienced an intense siege since Hamas won parliamentary elections and took over the Strip in 2007. The government was shunned by the international community, and relations with the Fatah-controlled West Bank were tense and sometimes violent.
Both Israel and Egypt largely prevented people, food and vital supplies from entering Gaza, and many were unable to leave the region even for emergency medical treatment.
Residents in Gaza today face a severe lack of clean water and only have electricity for several hours a day.
Despite the ceremony, the Rafah crossing remains closed. It remains to be seen how rapidly it is reopened.
The special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, released a UN statement on the handover.
“I welcome the full return of the Gaza crossings to the control of the Palestinian Authority. This is a landmark development in the implementation of the intra-Palestinian agreement, signed in Cairo on 12 October. The positive momentum should be maintained and the Palestinian government must be fully empowered to function in Gaza,” he said.
“The return of the crossings should facilitate the lifting of the closures while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns, and unlock increased international support for Gaza’s reconstruction, growth, stability and prosperity.”
The PA is set to take full control of Gaza from 1 December.