RAFAH (AFP) – Hamas handed over control of the Gaza Strip’s borders with Egypt and Israel to the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday in the first key test of a landmark Palestinian reconciliation accord agreed last month.
Nazmi Muhanna, the Palestinian Authority’s top official for border crossings, formally received control of the Rafah crossing with Egypt from his Hamas counterpart in a ceremony Wednesday morning.
At a separate checkpoint with Israel, an AFP photographer saw Hamas installations being dismantled. Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials were also there overseeing the handover.
At the Rafah crossing, Palestinian and Egyptian flags were flying, with large pictures of Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas and Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Mufeed al-Husayna, a Palestinian Authority minister, gave a short speech at the crossing, saying all the border crossings were being handed over.
“We began today, under the directive of the prime minister (Rami Hamdallah), to exercise our duties by receiving all the crossings,” he said, thanking the Egyptians for mediating the deal.
“There is no yellow and green. All our Palestinian people are under the Palestinian flag,” he added, referring to the flag colours of the political parties that signed last month’s reconciliation deal.
Hamdallah is due to visit Gaza again in the coming days, he added.
Hisham Adwan, director of information at the Hamas crossings authority, told AFP that Palestinian Authority employees would take full control of the borders.
Under the Egyptian-brokered deal, the Palestinian Authority is due to take full control of Gaza by December 1.
The checkpoints had been due to be handed over by Wednesday, and were seen as a first key test of the strength of the reconciliation agreement.