Israel is considering permitting the deployment of European Union forces along the Philadelphi route, on the Gaza Egypt border, in light of the recent escalation of violence and chaos in the area, British newspaper “The Independent” reported.
According to the report, EU and Israeli officials are expected to meet in the next few days to discuss the issue in a bid to restore order to the Gaza-Egypt border, despite Israel’s past statements against the deployment of international forces in the region.
A decision to invite the EU to help supervise the crossing would underline a shift of attitude by the Israeli government, which has traditionally viewed Brussels with suspicion, “The Independent” said, adding that some diplomats believe the Israelis now think that an EU involvement could demonstrate the scale of the security problems to skeptical European governments.
Israeli government officials have confirmed that talks are being held on the matter and that the European Union is involved.
'We don't object to EU supervision'
“The Independent” quotes Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev as saying, "We have to find solutions that are workable and prevent the Rafah crossing becoming a place where explosives, weapons and cash for the terrorist organizations can enter.
"We know there are people out there who will want to strengthen Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It's important that this doesn't happen. The challenge is to provide maximum opportunity for freedom of movement and at the same time to calibrate the all-too-real security risk."
On the issue of possible EU involvement, Regev said only: "Up to now, Israel has not agreed to third-party deployment. We have yet to finalize what the arrangements would be."
Saeb Erekat, who heads the Palestinian negotiating team, said: "We don't object to EU supervision. We have offered to have a third party involved. The Europeans are acceptable to us. We want to make sure we have freedom of movement for vehicles, persons and goods without endangering Israel's security. Israel has not been very responsive so far, but we expect to talk to them in the next few days.”
European sources said that after the EU had officially offered aid last month, it is up to Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians to decide on what the aid package will include.
The EU is offering advanced equipment for the inspection of goods at border crossings or the deployment of troops along the border.
Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority have agreed on the closing of the Rafah crossing for six months, during which the sides are expected to reach agreements regarding Israel’s security-related demands in the area.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has stressed that IDF forces would not return to the Philadelphi route despite recent disturbances in the area.