US wants EU to take over security at Rafah border crossing

Displaced Palestinians shelter at a camp in the Al-Mawasi area of Rafah, in southern Gaza
Displaced Palestinians shelter at a camp in the Al-Mawasi area of Rafah, in southern Gaza - Hatem Khaled/Reuters

The United States is seeking to install the EU as the caretaker of the Rafah border crossing, which has been closed since Israel invaded the city.

Washington has worked behind the scenes for weeks to broker a deal that would allow the European Union Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) to control the crossing between Egypt and Israel, according to a senior US official.

A source told The Telegraph that several ideas were being examined, including the plan for the EU to monitor the crossing.

The EUBAM worked at the Gaza border until 2007 when Hamas took control of the territory and the organisation is reportedly ready to resume its activities to alleviate the pressure on civilians in the enclave.

The Rafah border crossing is the most vital entry point for aid into Gaza. Israeli tanks rolled into the Palestinian side of the crossing on May 7, effectively taking control and shutting the border as forces began operations in the area.

Egypt is refusing to cooperate with Israel on redirecting aid to the nearby Kerem Shalom border crossing.

The closing of the Rafah border had an immediate impact on the amount of aid entering Gaza in the following days. And when Hamas fired rockets at the Kerem Shalom border crossing, Israel also shut that for four days.

While 749 trucks with humanitarian aid have entered Gaza in the past 48 hours, both the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the World Food Programme said they suspended delivery of food to Rafah.

Despite Egypt wanting Palestinians to retake control of the border crossing, president Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, argues that Rafah “in particular” is a focal point for ongoing terrorist activity.

“Nearly 700 tunnel shafts have been identified in Rafah, from which approximately 50 tunnels cross into Egypt. These tunnels are used by Hamas to supply itself with weapons and ammunition and could potentially be used to smuggle out of Gaza hostages, or Hamas senior operators,” said Gilad Noam, an official in the Israeli justice ministry.

According to Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security chief, the Israel Defense Forces’s findings ofis an “embarrassment” to Cairo.

“They want us to stop the operation there before we find more tunnels. Egypt does not have a real leverage on us because Israel has no interest that the supply will enter from this passage,” he said.

Mr Eiland said he is not against the idea of installing the EUBAM at the Rafah border crossing but said it “won’t be an effective solution”.