GAZA CITY — Hamas officials said Saturday that Egypt had informed them it would fully reopen the Rafah crossing on Sunday for the first time since the Aug. 5 border attack that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers, signaling a defrosting of relations that had been chilly since the killings.
Though Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and the Muslim Brotherhood, which backs Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi, share an ideology and political roots, the increasing closeness between the two governments had been interrupted by the attack.
Some in Egypt suggested that extremist groups in Gaza had supported the attackers, and Mr. Morsi not only shut down Rafah but also began destroying the hundreds of underground tunnels that supply the Gaza Strip with all manner of goods and Hamas with significant tax revenue.
On Saturday, Hamas also sent a delegation to Cairo to exchange information about the attack, according to a spokesman, who declined to provide further details. Previously, Egypt had sent Hamas a list of names of suspects, but Hamas had declined to make arrests, citing a lack of evidence.
The decision to reopen Rafah six days a week reverses an announcement on Thursday that the crossing would only be available three days a week and that travel would be restricted to humanitarian cases. The tighter restrictions had drawn a wave of condemnations from political leaders and human rights advocates. Rafah serves as Gazans’ lifeline to the world, since it is the only exit not controlled by Israel, which severely restricts residents’ travel.
But the move comes amid what witnesses described as intensified efforts by Egypt to curtail underground smuggling through the tunnels that connect Gaza to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Cranes, bulldozers and drilling machines were seen over the weekend on the Egyptian side of the tunnels, and smugglers said that the transport of construction materials had nearly stopped.
Even as Hamas seemed to be repairing its relationship with Egypt, its leadership further antagonized its Palestinian rivals, by announcing on Saturday that the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniya, planned to attend this week’s summit meeting of the Nonaligned Movement in Iran.
Iran is the main financial sponsor and arms provider for Hamas, the Islamic movement that took over Gaza in 2007.
Leaders of the rival Fatah organization had called on Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, not to attend the meeting if Mr. Haniya did.
The United States and much of the international community considers Hamas a terrorist organization, and recognizes Mr. Abbas as the leader of the Palestinian people. Hamas and Mr. Abbas’s Fatah faction have signed several reconciliation agreements, but they have found little traction.
Fatah leaders had called on Mr. Haniya not to attend the summit meeting, and said that they would boycott if the he attended. On Saturday, Fatah officials said they were pressing Iran’s leadership to withdraw the invitation to Mr. Haniya and asking other members of the Nonaligned Movement to stay away from the summit if Mr. Haniya attends.
“This is outside protocol, of course,” complained Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the P.L.O. executive committee, accusing the Iranian government of overstepping its role as host. “The whole movement recognizes the president as the head of the political system and institutions in Palestine. You cannot start inviting others at will.
“It’s like inviting a government and its opposition at the same time. It enforces the division, the rift, as if there are two governments, and parity between them both.”
The Nonaligned Movement is made up of 120 nations that were not allied with either the United States or the Soviet Union during the cold war, and it convenes a meeting every three years. Iran is hosting this year’s event and taking over leadership of the movement, and given the current international effort to isolate Iran because of its nuclear program, that has caused numerous problems. Israel and the United States have objected to the attendance of Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations.
Mr. Abbas’s plan to petition the United Nations General Assembly for observer state status this fall is on the meeting’s agenda. He had planned to host a mini-conference of nonaligned nations focused on this issue earlier this month in the West Bank, but was thwarted when Israel refused to allow the delegations from several countries to attend.
Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, issued a statement Saturday condemning Iran’s invitation to Mr. Haniya as “a dangerous escalation of the Iranian position” and calling his acceptance “a stab in the side of the Palestinian national project.” Mr. Fayyad appealed to Mr. Haniya “to make sure that his patriotism and Palestinian identity overcome all other considerations.”
(www.nytimes.com / 25.08.2012)