Gazans waiting to cross into Egypt through Rafah crossing
Gazans waiting to cross into Egypt through Rafah crossingAbed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

The Palestinian Authority (PA) announced on Sunday it would be withdrawing staff from the Rafah border post with Egypt in southern Gaza to protest against "brutal practices" by rival faction Hamas, AFP reports.

"This decision comes in the light of recent developments and brutal practices of the de facto gangs" in the Gaza Strip, said the PA's civil affairs authority in a statement.

It accused Hamas of "summoning, arresting and abusing our employees", leading it to conclude that their presence was futile, the statement said.

Hamas and Fatah, which is headed by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, have been embroiled in a bitter rivalry since 2007, when Hamas violently took over Gaza from Fatah in a bloody coup.

The two organizations signed a reconciliation deal in late 2017, under which the PA was to have resumed full control of Gaza by December 1 of that year.

That deadline, however, was initially put back by 10 days and had later reportedly hit “obstacles”. It has never been implemented and is one of many attempts that have failed over the years to ease the tensions between the two groups.

While the deal has never been fully implemented, the PA did take control of Rafah in November 2017.

"Since we took over the Rafah crossing, Hamas has been obstructing the work of our crew there," said Sunday’s statement, according to AFP.

It said Egypt had made the reopening of Rafah conditional on the PA being in charge of it.

A Hamas spokesman said the PA's decision to withdraw "constitutes a new step by Mahmoud Abbas in separating the West Bank from the Gaza Strip".

The rivalry between the groups has intensified over the past year because of the punitive measures taken by the PA against Gaza.

More recently, Fatah accused Hamas of “abducting” more than 500 of its leaders and operatives in Gaza, saying that "this is unacceptable behavior that does not conform to the values and morals of the Palestinian people."

Hamas denied the accusation, with a spokesman saying that 38 people had been held for questioning over concerns that opposing Fatah factions in Gaza would clash at a rally marking the anniversary of Fatah’s founding.