EU, Israel mull possible return of observer forces to Rafah crossing

In light of the Egypt-brokered reconciliation agreement that was signed between Fatah and Hamas, the European Union (EU) has begun preparing for the return of its Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) at the Rafah crossing which connects the besieged Gaza Strip and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Israel’s Ynet reported today.

The news agency revealed that a number of meetings were held between the EU and the Israeli officials during which the two sides discussed the possibility of returning the EU’s observer forces who had withdrawn from the crossing when Hamas seized control of the Strip in 2007.

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The EU Ambassador to Israel, Emanuele Giaufret, met with the Israeli army’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, to discuss what it would take for the EUBAM to return to the Rafah crossing, “if the Palestinian Authority (PA) re-gained control over Gaza.”

During the meeting, Mordechai explained that the conditions in the area have changed since Hamas took power over Gaza and that necessary adjustments should be made.

The Europeans also met with representatives of the PA, Egyptian officials, and Israeli foreign ministry officials, according to Ynet.

In 2005, 70 soldiers of the EU unarmed observer forces, whose mission was to monitor the crossing according to its agreement signed in 2005, let some 1,500 citizens to pass through the crossing per day.

Hamas’ spokesman in Gaza recently said that the crossing will be handed over next Wednesday to the PA.

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