Some USD 60 million have been smuggled from Egypt into the Gaza Strip through the EU-controlled Rafah border crossing, Gen. Pietro Pistolese the head of the team of monitors said Thursday.
Pistolese said his team cannot prevent Palestinian from carrying cash through the crossing, noting that although Palestinians cross into Gaza from Egypt, funds they bring in are not generated in Egypt but in other countries.
He said the Palestinian Authority recently signed an agreement with Egypt, authorizing Egyptian authorities to arrest Palestinians carrying suspiciously large amounts of cash.
Head of EU monitors Gen. Pietro Postelese (Photo: Amir Cohen)
EU monitors overtook the responsibility of operating the crossing in November 2005 after the implementation of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's withdrawal plan from Gaza.
The monitors are mandated with making sure that Palestinian inspectors carry out their jobs appropriately.
Pistolese evoked his team's intervention last week to solve a deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians over Defense Minister Amir Peretz's decision to bar Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh from entering Gaza through Rafah for carrying million of dollars collected during a trip to Muslim states.
EU intervention brokered a deal whereby Haniyeh is allowed entry into Gaza if he leaves the funds behind in Egypt.
The general also said that 344,574 people crossed the crossing since his team was positioned in Rafah.
During that period 65,112 people used the crossing. Had the crossing been open on a regular basis the number of people who would have crossed it by the end of the year would have reached half a million.