.RAFAH, Egypt (AP) – Hamas militants joined Egyptian forces for a second day Monday in trying to restore control at three breaches in the Gaza border, building a chain-link fence to seal off one opening and directing traffic at two others.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have flooded into Egypt unchecked over the past six days since Hamas militants blasted holes in the border partition. They have been voraciously buying up food, fuel and other goods made scarce by Israeli and Egyptian closures of Gaza’s borders.
Hamas seized control of the Palestinian territory in June but before the breach, it had no role in policing the border with Egypt. Now the Islamic militant group is hoping that will change now and it is pressing for some kind of future role in border administration.
At a meeting in Cairo, Arab governments were forceful in their opposition to that idea.
Egypt and the foreign ministers of the Arab League have firmly backed the Palestinian Authority led by moderate President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah in its power struggle against rival Hamas. They have called for a return to a 2005 international border monitoring agreement that excluded the Islamist organization entirely.
“They (Hamas) should not interfere. They should just simply get out of the way and allow this to happen,” Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who heads a rival government in the West Bank, told reporters after returning from Cairo.
In the divided town of Rafah, however, Hamas forces were very much in control.
“There has been continuous and direct cooperation with Egyptian security officials over the last couple of days,” said a bearded Hamas security official dressed in blue camouflage and sporting an assault rifle. “They asked us to only allow trucks to enter and not civilian cars to make the operation as orderly as possible.”
Food and fuel were in short supply in Gaza since Israel, responding to growing rocket attacks from Gaza, sealed its border days before the militants blasted open the Egyptian frontier further to the south.