The European Union is abandoning its role of monitoring the Gaza-Egypt border, one of the conditions of Israel’s leaving the strategic Philadelphi Route, which runs along the Israeli side of the border.
The border has been officially closed since Hamas won a civil war with Fatah over control of Gaza, though nearly 4,000 PA Arabs managed to cross over to Egypt in the following days.
The EU observers’ official departure is said to signal the Quartet’s (US, Russia, the EU and UN) expectations that the crossing will remain closed for the foreseeable future. The monitors’ effectiveness in preventing weapons smuggling has been questioned as well, with evidence that Hamas managed to smuggle tons of explosives and even missiles into Gaza despite the presence of the observers.
The EU office in charge of the observers said that of the 87 stationed there, all but 15 would be leaving Gaza. The remaining observers will be on standby in case the border opens on short notice.
Egypt presumably is afraid that the Islamist takeover of Gaza could be exported to its territory, where the Muslim Brotherhood – of which Hamas is an offshoot – enjoys strong support. Aid from Egypt is currently being passed through Israel’s three-way Kerem Shalom Crossing.
An estimated 4-6,000 PA Arabs are stranded in Egypt, waiting to return to Gaza.