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Archive for Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Israel demands control of vital crossing

Area is Gaza’s only link to outside world

August 9, 2005

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— Israel ruled out giving the Palestinians their own gate to the world, insisting Monday it will control traffic in and out of Gaza after Israeli settlers and soldiers leave. Palestinians complained Israel is unwilling to loosen its grip on the coastal strip.

Just a week before the pullout begins, Israel's Security Cabinet met to consider how to deal with the crossing point at Rafah between Gaza and Egypt. Rather than endorse a plan for international inspectors to handle customs and security, the Israelis insisted on moving the crossing to the point where Gaza, Egypt and Israel meet - and on retaining Israeli control.

No final decision was made, however, indicating key issues will be left unresolved when the pullout begins. The two sides also are discussing removal of rubble, the fate of greenhouses and other matters.

The Rafah crossing to Egypt is Gaza's only link to the outside world, as the seaside territory is surrounded on the other two sides by Israel. The border crossing issue is also considered vital by Israelis, who worry about weapons smuggling into Gaza and about the flow of cheap goods into Israel.

Israel has controlled the Rafah crossing since it captured Gaza in the 1967 war. Israel maintains the pullout will end its occupation, but Palestinians and international agencies say if Israel continues to control Gaza's borders, air space and seacoast, it will still be considered an occupier.

International envoy James Wolfensohn, who has been trying to broker an agreement on border crossings, has urged Israel to make a decision before the withdrawal starts. He has said the pullout will succeed only if Gazans can move freely - a prerequisite for reviving their economy.

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