Israel Grapples with Border Security Along Gaza

The Hamas takeover of Gaza presents new challenges for Israel.

Israel has closed all of its borders with Gaza, although it is allowing food to enter and "humanitarian cases" to leave. Israeli officials know the borders cannot remain closed long-term, but they worry that refugees from Gaza will inundate Israel if the borders are opened.

At the same time, they fear a growing Iranian influence in Gaza and say that if weapons smuggling from Egypt continues, they may have to re-enter Gaza.

Egypt Invites Israeli, Palestinian Leaders to Talks

A Palestinian security officer claps as supporters of the secular Fatah party. i i

hide captionA Palestinian security officer claps as supporters of the Fatah party take part in a rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah Thursday.

Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images
A Palestinian security officer claps as supporters of the secular Fatah party.

A Palestinian security officer claps as supporters of the Fatah party take part in a rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah Thursday.

Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images
Hamas supporters protest against Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza City. i i

hide captionHamas supporters protest against Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza City. Abbas ruled out talks with Hamas and accused the Islamist movement of plotting to kill him.

Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images
Hamas supporters protest against Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza City.

Hamas supporters protest against Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza City. Abbas ruled out talks with Hamas and accused the Islamist movement of plotting to kill him.

Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has invited leaders from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan to a peace summit, in a show of support from moderate Arab states for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The meeting is planned to take place Monday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, said Israeli government spokeswoman Miri Eisin. Egypt's Mubarak has invited Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Jordan's King Abdullah II. to the session.

At the meeting, Abbas will call for a resumption of peace talks with Israel, arguing that only progress toward Palestinian statehood can serve as a true buffer against Hamas, which took control of Gaza by force last week, Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said.

"The most important thing to realize is that time is of the essence," Erekat said. "We need to deliver the end of occupation, a Palestinian state. If we don't have hope, Hamas will export despair to the people."

As immediate steps, Abbas will ask Israel to remove West Bank checkpoints that disrupt daily life and trade, and to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars in Palestinian tax funds Israel froze after Hamas came to power last year.

In Washington this week, Olmert said he would propose to his Cabinet on Sunday that it unlock the frozen funds, though he did not say how much money he thought Israel should release. Israel is holding about $550 million in tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians.

Despite the talk about peace, the Hamas takeover has dealt a setback to Palestinian statehood efforts, with the Islamist militants in charge of Gaza and Abbas' Fatah group in charge of the West Bank.

Gaza militants fired nine rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot on Wednesday, slightly injuring one person. Hours earlier, Israeli troops backed by tanks and armored vehicles fatally shot four militants.

Meanwhile, angry Hamas supporters took to the streets of Gaza City Wednesday night, after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered a stinging condemnation of the Islamist movement.

Speaking from the Fatah-controlled West Bank, Abbas said there would be no negotiating with Hamas, which routed Fatah forces from Gaza last week.

As the divide grows, Gazans worry that the coming weeks will bring only more misery.

In a televised address, the normally mild-mannered Abbas accused Hamas of engineering a coup in Gaza and plotting an effort to assassinate him — a charge Hamas denies.

"There can be no dialogue with these killers and coup seekers," he said.

Abbas also said his emergency government would not ignore the people of Gaza, but it was not clear how he intended to help.

Hamas supporters clogged the streets of Gaza City following the evening prayers, attacking effigies of the Palestinian president.

Since violence erupted into all-out combat earlier this month, Palestinians have witnessed bloody infighting, the dissolution of the national unity government, and the near-total isolation of 1.4 million Gazans and their Islamist ruling party.

From NPR's Peter Kenyon and The Associated Press

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: