Friday, January 25, 2008

Gaza-Egypt border chaos forces world to rethink strategy toward Hamas

Contributed by Lucia in Spain

"JERICHO, West Bank: The chaotic scenes on the Gaza-Egypt border are forcing Israel, Egypt and the international community to rethink a two-year policy of trying to weaken Gaza's Hamas rulers by keeping the territory sealed.

Any easing of the Gaza closure could well stabilize Hamas' militant government in the coastal strip, something the West would be loath to see. It's also unlikely all those with conflicting interests in Gaza, including Israel, Hamas and pro-Western Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, could agree on a solution.

Yet, a more relaxed Gaza border regime could entice Hamas to halt rocket fire, and this in turn could buy Abbas and Israel the necessary calm to make progress in U.S.-backed peace deal.

The current border crisis developed at breathtaking speed, typical of Gaza's volatility.

(…) Egypt gradually restored control after four days, but a similar effort Friday was met by Hamas resistance.

Hamas militants driving bulldozers tore down more border fortifications, sending a brazen message to Egypt that Hamas expects to negotiate a new border deal. Egyptian forces pulled out and Hamas hardliner Sami Abu Zuhri confidently declared the border would have to remain open.

(…) Abbas, meanwhile, is pushing a plan to have his forces take over the Palestinian side of the Gaza crossings. Details are sketchy, except that Abbas' men would serve as buffers on the border

(…) With such an arrangement, Abbas could regain a foothold in Gaza, after his troops were routed by Hamas in June. However, the Palestinian president has not explained how his men could operate in Hamas-run territory, let alone run border traffic effectively.

Abbas' plan would also amount to tacit recognition of Hamas rule in Gaza, something he has adamantly refused to do since the takeover."

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