On January 6, the Palestinian Authority (PA) made an announcement that it was pulling its staff out of the Rafah Crossing with Egypt. Here’s what you need to know about the incident.

A member of Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas stands guard at the gate of Rafah border crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip January 7, 2019.
A member of Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas stands guard at the gate of Rafah border crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip January 7, 2019. (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters)

Palestinian Authority blamed Hamas for forcing them to recall its staff from the Rafah Crossing, saying "this decision comes in the light of recent developments and brutal practices of the de facto gangs" in the Gaza Strip, according to Wafa, the official Palestinian News & Info Agency, 

Hamas is now reportedly in charge of the Rafah Crossing. In a statement, Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qasem said the staff withdrawal was part of [PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s] “policy aimed to isolate the Gaza Strip from Palestine.”

The PA is based in the Occupied West Bank and is backed by Western nations, with Mahmoud Abbas from Fatah Party presiding.

Fatah and Hamas have been at odds since 2007, when clashes in Palestine between their supporters ended up splitting the rule in Palestine into two.

Since then, Hamas has been controlling Gaza and Fatah has been controlling the Occupied West Bank.

What's at stake

The Rafah Crossing is important because it’s the only crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt with thousands crossing it back and forth every year.

According to Gisha, an Israeli non-profit that aims to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, “Because of the closure Israel imposes on Gaza’s land crossings, and the ban on air and sea travel to and from Gaza, Rafah Crossing has become a vital route to the outside world for Gaza’s residents over the years.”

The PA has been controlling the Rafah Crossing with Egypt since November 2017. The border had been “largely sealed for years” before that.

"Since we took over the Rafah crossing, Hamas has been obstructing the work of our crew there," the PA said on Sunday.

The growing tussle between Fatah and Hamas 

The PA has accused Hamas of “consolidating the division [between Fatah and Hamas], the last of which was summoning, arresting and abusing our employees,” reportedly as many as 500 men.

The PA further stated that they were convinced “of the futility of [their employees’] presence there because of Hamas hampering their work and tasks."

Because there are no PA employees overseeing the crossing on the Palestinian side, the Egypt-Palestine border at Rafah is now closed.

Last month, Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas had accused Israel of funding Hamas in Gaza.

The hostility between the PA and Hamas isn’t likely to resolve soon, and the fate of the Rafah Crossing remains uncertain. Egypt has not yet commented whether it will allow Hamas to run the border instead of Fatah.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies