Israel to hand over Rafah crossing to private US firm: Report

The Cradle, May 8, 2024 ─ 

The agreement between the US, Israel, and Egypt calls for the private firm to take control of the crossing after Israel’s operation there is over.

Israel will grant control of the Rafah border crossing to a private US security company, Haaretz newspaper reported on 8 May. 

The US, Egypt, and Israel have agreed “that a private American security company will assume management of the crossing after the IDF concludes its operation.”

Discussions between the three sides have been ongoing. Israel has committed to the US and Egypt that it will restrict its operation in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city. Tel Aviv reportedly made it clear during talks that the operation at the Rafah crossing aims to pressure Hamas in ceasefire talks and diminish the crossing’s image as a “symbol of Hamas’ power.” 

It has also said the operation aims to cut off Hamas’ ability to channel weapons and funds into Gaza.

Israel has reportedly vowed not to damage the crossing’s facilities to ensure its operation is not hindered. The Rafah crossing is considered a major lifeline for Palestinians in Gaza, and the UN has warned that continuous Israeli operations in the area seriously threaten aid efforts.

Cairo and Washington have been showing serious concern lately over Israel’s plans for Rafah, which the army has been promising to invade for months. The city is overcrowded with over a million besieged Palestinians, and a full-scale assault poses the threat of an unprecedented humanitarian disaster. 

“As part of Israel’s efforts to win agreement for a Rafah operation, negotiations have been underway with a private company in the US that specializes in assisting armies and governments around the world engaged in military conflicts,” the Haaretz report adds. 

The company, which employs veterans of elite US military units, has been active in several African and West Asian nations, guarding sites such as oil fields, bases, and border crossings. 

In line with the understandings reached between Cairo, Washington, and Tel Aviv, the US firm will assume responsibility for the crossing after Israel’s “limited” operation there is over. This includes overseeing the delivery of goods arriving from Egypt to Gaza and ensuring Hamas does not re-establish control of the crossing. 

“According to the agreement, Israel and the US will assist the company as necessary.” 

The White House and a State Department spokesman said on 8 May that they are unaware of any such plans. Several Palestinian resistance factions said in a joint statement on Wednesday that they refuse any attempt to “impose any form of [foreign] guardianship of the Rafah crossing,” adding that they consider this a “form of occupation.” 

“Any plan of this kind … will be dealt with in the same way as the occupation is dealt with,” the statement added.

Sources told CNN and the Times of Israel on Tuesday that Israel’s operation at the Rafah crossing is a limited one, which aims to pressure Hamas in ongoing truce negotiations. Hamas accepted on Monday an updated proposal for a deal, which Israel finds unacceptable given its explicit call for a cessation of hostilities and withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Gaza. 

Hamas has accused Israel of continuously sabotaging efforts to reach a truce agreement. 

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