Thousands of Palestinians left stranded on the Egyptian side of the
border since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip will be allowed to cross through the Kerem Shalom crossing Tuesday and return to Gaza following an agreement between Israel and Egypt.
During the fighting between Hamas and Fatah, Kerem Shalom was the only crossing Palestinians could use after the Rafah crossing was closed. In the past week, as many as 4,000 Palestinians found themselves waiting on the Egyptian side of the border without adequate accommodations or facilities.
During his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the Sharm
el-Sheikh summit last week, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to relieve the humanitarian crisis near the crossing.
Immediately after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, Israel asked Egypt to keep the crossing closed since the agreements that governed the operation of Kerem Shalom and other crossings had become defunct in view of the changed situation in the Strip.
As such, the opening of the crossing will not be a permanent development.
Meanwhile Monday, Fatah and Hamas continued in their efforts to strengthen their grip on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip respectively, arresting their opponents.
In the West Bank, Fatah security forces arrested a Hamas member of the
Palestinian parliament in Nablus. A Palestinian security source told Haaretz that security forces loyal to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had arrested dozens of Hamas members and had confiscated arms. The source also said that during questioning, the Hamas members acknowledged the presence of a dormant Executive Force organization in the West Bank. The Executive Force was set up by Hamas in the Gaza Strip to counter the various Fatah-affiliated security organizations following the Islamic group’s electoral victory early last year.
It is the paramilitary organization primarily responsible for vanquishing
Fatah in the Strip.
“They had a command structure, arms and were even undergoing military training in various places,” the source said. He added that Israeli security services were not aware of how large the presence of the Executive Force in the West Bank really was.
For its part, Hamas announced Monday that it had arrested the spokesman for the Army of Islam, the organization that abducted BBC correspondent Alan Johnston. Hamas has demanded that the group, which is affiliated with the Durmush clan, release Johnston, who was abducted on March 12. However, the group, whose relations with Hamas have deteriorated, is demading that Britain release a religious figure with links to Al Qaida, currently imprisoned in Britain.
Also Monday, one Palestinian was killed during an operation involving an Israel Defense Forces patrol and Palestinian gunmen in the Jenin refugee camp.
The dead man is Muhammed Abu al-Hijia, the deputy commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades in Jenin.
Al-Hijia is considered a close friend of Zacharia Zbeidi, the head of the
Martyrs’ Brigades in Jenin.
Responding to a ban by Abbas prohibiting the carrying of weapons in public, Zbeidi said recently that he and his men would continue holding on to their arms as long as the Israeli occupation continues.