The Palestinian government withdrew its civil servants manning the border between Gaza and Egypt on Sunday, only to see them quickly replaced by staff loyal to the Islamist Hamas movement. The moves come as Palestinian infighting intensives in Gaza, with Hamas and Fatah escalating their war of words while arresting and otherwise impeding each other’s activists.
Why it matters: The return of the civil servants was supposed to be the first step in the reopening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. It was to be followed by the return of European police who fled when Hamas militants took over the streets of Gaza in 2006. The decision by the Ramallah-based leadership follows a week of high tensions prompted by the Hamas government’s refusal to allow Fatah activists to hold a rally today celebrating the 54th anniversary of the political group’s founding. The rally was eventually canceled after Hamas brought its armed security into the streets.