Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called on Egypt to open its border with the Gaza Strip for commercial trade, providing a conduit for imports and exports outside the hundreds of smuggling tunnels dug under the frontier.
Haniyeh’s appeal, outlined to reporters today in Gaza City, follows a doubling in permits for Palestinians to cross into Egypt at the southern Rafah border station to about 1,500 a day since the election of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi.
Rafah is Gaza’s only official border crossing to Egypt that bypasses Israel. Haniyeh said the station should be open 24 hours a day with free movement of commercial goods to help revive the struggling Palestinian economy.
Israel and Egypt sealed Gaza’s borders in June 2007 after Hamas broke off its power-sharing arrangement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas is an offshoot of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood organization. The group is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and European Union.
Egyptian presidential spokesman Yasser Ali’s mobile phone was switched off when contacted by Bloomberg for comment.