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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Hamas hands over Egypt border crossing to Palestinian Authority

Hamas installations at a separate checkpoint with Israel were being dismantled

Portraits of Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas hang at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on November 1, 2017. Hamas handed over control of the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt to the Palestinian Authority today. Said Khatib / AFP
Portraits of Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas hang at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on November 1, 2017. Hamas handed over control of the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt to the Palestinian Authority today. Said Khatib / AFP

Hamas handed over control of the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt to the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday as part of an agreement brokered by Cairo to end a decade of internal division.

Nazmi Muhanna, the Palestinian Authority’s senior official for border crossings, and his Hamas counterpart signed a deal that will allow the internationally recognised authority of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to take control of the border with Egypt.

Hamas installations at a separate checkpoint with Israel were being dismantled, according to Agence France-Presse, which added that officials from the Palestinian Authority and Hamas were there to oversee the handover.

Witnesses said that Palestinian Authority employees moved into Eres and Kerem Shalom crossings on the Israeli border and Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border, reported Reuters, which added that Hamas members packed up equipment and departed on trucks.

At Rafah, large murals of Mr Abbas and Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi decorated the entrances to the passport hall, and Palestinian and Egyptian flags flew over the compound.

Palestinian Authority minister Mufeed Al Husayna said that all the border crossings were being handed over.

"We began today, under the directive of the prime minister [Rami Hamdallah], to exercise our duties by receiving all the crossings," he said in a short speech at the crossing on Tuesday.

"There is no yellow and green. All our Palestinian people are under the Palestinian flag," he added, referring to the flag colours of the political parties that signed last month's reconciliation deal.

He also said that Mr Hamdallah will visit Gaza in the coming days.

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Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007 when they seized control in a near civil war with Mr Abbas’s Fatah.

Israel has maintained a blockade on Gaza for a decade, citing the need to control Hamas, with which it has fought three wars since 2008.

Egypt has largely closed its border. The Rafah crossing was not open on Wednesday despite the official handover, although Hamas is hoping it will be in the coming days or weeks.

The Gaza Strip's two million residents suffer worsening humanitarian conditions, with only a few hours of power a day and a lack of clean water.

The Palestinian Authority is due to take full control of Gaza by December 1.

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