Hamas Raises Ante at Rafiah
Hamas Raises Ante at RafiahArchive

An Arabic language newspaper reported Tuesday that Hamas is demanding a share in tax revenues if and when the Rafiah crossing at the Egyptian border is re-opened, a move that jeopardizes progress towards the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israel must give security clearance for European Union (EU) monitors and Palestinian Authority (PA) workers in order for the crossing to open. The Al Quds newspaper quoted Hamas sources as saying that Hamas accepts the EU and PA personnel "but under the condition that Hamas plays a role in running the passageway and that Israel doesn't intervene in the work of the EU monitors."

Last week's Hamas-Israeli agreement, worked out through Egyptian mediators, calls for the crossing to be re-opened in return for the release of Shalit. Hamas claims that the soldier will not be released until after the Rafiah border is open and Israel agrees to free hundreds of Hamas terrorists. 

Allowing Hamas to share in the tax money would effectively break the American-imposed ban on financing the terrorist party that wrested control away from the rival Fatah faction one year ago.

Israel and Egypt last year shut down the border crossing, which straddles the Gaza and Egyptian sides of Rafiah, after the Hamas military coup last year. Although Israel technically can decide when the Gaza-Egypt border can be opened, Hamas has done so on its own more than 50 times in the past year, taking advantage of the lack of Israeli presence.

Israel was responsible for security at Rafiah, part of the Philadelphi route along the border, until 2005, when the government carried out its plan to expel Jewish residents from the Gaza region and withdrew all IDF soldiers, leaving Fatah, Hamas and Egypt responsible for protecting the Israeli border.

The city has been a prime conduit for smuggling drugs, weapons and terrorists, which Israel has demanded that Hamas halt as part of the ceasefire agreement. However, the pact with Hamas provides no system for monitoring the border, and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh declared earlier this week that there is no way to stop the flow.