Photo: AFP
Rafah crossing
Photo: AFP
Photo: Reuters
Postponed her trip to South Korea. Rice
Photo: Reuters

Deal on Gaza crossings reached

Mofaz announces Israel, PA reach U.S.-mediated agreement on opening of Rafah, Kerem Shalom border crossings; Israeli-Palestinian coordination center under European supervision to be established in Kerem Shalom; only Palestinians holding PA identity cards will be allowed to enter, exit through Rafah crossing

Israel and the Palestinian Authority have reached a U.S.-mediated agreement on the opening of the border crossings from Gaza to Egypt in Rafah and Kerem Shalom, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz announced on Tuesday following his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


According to the agreement, an Israeli-Palestinian coordination center under European supervision will be established in Kerem Shalom, and live images will be transferred there.


The parties also agreed that the Kerem Shalom crossing will be used for the passage of vehicles and goods, and that the Rafah crossing will be used for the passage of goods and human beings. Only Palestinians holding PA identity cards will be allowed to enter and exit through the crossing.


Mofaz said the Egyptians have been updated on the agreement, adding that, “This is another phase in the framework of the trust-building steps between Israel and the Palestinians. The agreement can serve as a foundation for continued cooperation in the region.”


Easing restrictions


The agreement was reached with the mediation of Rice, who postponed her scheduled trip to South Korea to help Israel and the PA seal the crossings deal.


In a Jerusalem press conference, Rice said that for the first time since 1967 Palestinians were given control over the Gaza Strip crossings.


Rice hailed the deal as a "Big step forward" For both sides. She said Israelis and Palestinians, bruised by nearly five years of bloody fighting, are learning to establish "Patterns of cooperation." For the Palestinians, it was a major step toward independence, she said.


MK Benjamin Netanyahu said during a meeting of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday that "the intention to grant the Palestinians a safe harbor in Gaza and a safe crossing from Gaza to the West Bank constitutes a danger to Israel."


"The result will be that plenty of weapons will find their way to Gaza, Qassam and mortar rockets will be transferred to Judea and Samaria and fired at Israel from the region," he added.


Mofaz said that "The agreement with the Palestinians on the border crossings is a consequence of my visits to Egypt and the United States."


"In the agreement we found the right balance between Israel's security needs and the Palestinians' economic needs. However, we will not allow the Palestinians' needs to harm Israel's security," he added while leaving the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.


The Yesha Council warned in response that the opening of the border crossings and the removing of checkpoints in the West Bank were "A ticking time bomb that will lead to an additional surge of terror which we have never experienced before."


"Israel is repeating its mistakes from the Oslo Agreement and is leaving its safety in the hands of the Palestinians and Egyptians, which is like leaving the cat to watch over the milk or wolves to watch prey. Sharon has crossed every line toward the Left," Yesha Council sources said.


During Monday’s joint press conference with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Rice reiterated the U.S.’s commitment to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.


Palestinian sources said Monday that Quartet envoy James Wolfensohn has been working on a deal that would resolve the disputed issues.


According to the Palestinians, the deal will include the safe passageway between Gaza and the West Bank and easing restrictions on the Palestinian population, including the removal of no less than 125 checkpoints in the West Bank.


Efrat Weiss, Ilan Marciano and AP contributed to the report


פרסום ראשון: 11.15.05, 10:54
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