Hamas keeps Rafah crossing closed in protest against Egypt's "slow work"
Hamas authorities kept the Palestinian side of Rafah crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Egypt closed for the second day, protesting slow work at the Egyptian side, Xinhua reported.
Hamas officials said they wondered why Egypt closed the crossing suddenly on Saturday, a week after it said it would open the gate permanently.
Ayyoub Abu Sha'ar, the director of the crossing, said there are contacts between Hamas government and Egypt.
"So far, we have not received answers from the Egyptian brothers," he said.
When Egypt opened the crossing last month, it said people aged over 40 years old or under 18 can travel freely, without any procedure in advance, as well as all the females.
The new Egyptian facilitation were praised by Hamas as a big step towards breaking Israeli restrictions that included the closure of Gaza. In 2007, Israel imposed the closure to weaken Hamas, which took over Gaza by force that year. Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's then president, cooperated with Israel and kept the crossing mostly closed.
In June 2010, Mubarak opened the crossing on regular basis, but traveling conditions were still strict.
Under last month's new easing of the travel restrictions, the crossing operated very well for four days, according to Hamas, before Egypt suddenly slowed down work and sent back many people who were trying to leave Gaza.
A Hamas official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Gaza authorities asked Egypt to increase the number of people allowed to pass through Rafah daily and speed up the work.
Meanwhile, Salah Al-Bardaweel, a Hamas leader in Gaza, accused Washington and Israel of pressuring on Egypt due to the recent opening of the crossing.
"Rafah crossing is a matter of Egyptian and Palestinian sovereignty and no external sides should intervene in," Al- Bardaweel added.
In 2005, after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, the United States brokered an international agreement to open the crossing, based on the deployment of European Union monitors as a third party and the presence of forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to control the crossing.
The EU monitors withdrew after Hamas routed pro-Abbas forces and seized Gaza in June 2007.