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Hamas Hands Over Border Crossings to Palestinian Authority

Hamas Hands Over Border Crossings to Palestinian AuthorityHamas Hands Over Border Crossings to Palestinian Authority

Hamas handed over control of the Gaza Strip's borders with Egypt and Israel to the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday in the first key test of a landmark reconciliation accord agreed last month.

The handover signaled that Islamist movement Hamas remained firmly committed to a deal that would eventually see it give up full control of the Gaza Strip and bring an end to a 10-year rift with rivals Fatah, AFP reported.

It not only handed over control of the crossings, but also completely dismantled its own checkpoint along the border with Israel, leaving only the one operated by the Palestinian Authority there, with trucks carting away furniture and material.

A ceremony was held to formalize the handover at the Rafah border with Egypt.

"There is no yellow and green. All our Palestinian people are under the Palestinian flag," said Mufeed al-Husayna, a Palestinian Authority minister, referring to the flag colors of the political parties that signed last month's reconciliation deal.

Speaking at the Rafah ceremony, Husayna said: "We began today, under the directive of the prime minister (Rami Hamdallah), to exercise our duties by receiving all the crossings."

Palestinian and Egyptian flags were flying at the Rafah ceremony, with large pictures of Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas and Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

At a separate checkpoint with Israel, an AFP photographer saw Hamas installations being dismantled and carted away. Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials were also there overseeing the handover.

Hisham Adwan, director of information at the Hamas crossings authority, told AFP that Palestinian Authority employees would have full control of the borders.

Under an Egyptian-brokered deal agreed on October 12, the Palestinian Authority is due to resume full control of the strip by December 1, with the borders the first test.

The agreement set November 1 as the deadline for handing over control of the borders.

Many issues remain to be resolved, however, particularly the fate of Hamas's 25,000-strong armed wing.

Israel, which has fought three wars with the group in Gaza since 2008, has said it will not deal with any Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas unless the Islamist movement disarms and recognizes Israel, among other demands.

Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007, when the group seized control in a near civil war with Abbas's Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank.

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