JERUSALEM — Israeli and American officials said yesterday they were pressing Egypt to ensure that the opening of its border with Gaza does not enable the Hamas militant group to move weapons and militants into the Palestinian territory.
The diplomatic efforts were underway after Egypt announced it was permanently opening its Rafah border crossing with Gaza. The Rafah terminal, Gaza’s main gateway to the outside world, has functioned at limited capacity, with frequent closures the past four years.
Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade of Gaza since Hamas violently seized power four years ago. But since President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was toppled in February, the country’s caretaker government has distanced itself from Israel and moved closer to the Palestinians.
Israeli defense officials said that since the upheaval of Mubarak’s ouster, Egypt has all but halted its efforts to stop weapons smuggling through tunnels along the Gaza border. They fear that the expanded crossings at Rafah will make it even easier to get arms and fighters into the Hamas-controlled territory.
Israel has long insisted on careful monitoring of people and goods entering Gaza for security reasons.