RAFAH, Gaza Strip – The Gaza-Egypt border will reopen only as part of an international agreement, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (search) said Monday, quashing speculation Egypt and the Palestinians might operate a crossing without Israel's blessing.
Abbas spoke a day after his security forces plugged the last holes in the border fortifications, ending a week of chaos during which thousands of Gazans and Egyptians flooded across the frontier without controls.
"We want to do the right job at the right time because we want to act as a state, as a responsible authority," Abbas said. "Therefore, we are following up on the subject seriously with our brothers in Egypt. Until we reach agreement, we should be patient."
Israel closed the Rafah crossing (search) between Gaza and Egypt when it withdrew its forces from Gaza last week. Israel left without having reached agreement with Egypt and the Palestinians on how to operate Rafah.
The Palestinians insist that Rafah reopen quickly, possibly with European monitors, and that all passenger traffic and outgoing cargo go through the terminal. Israel says Rafah can only resume operations after six months, and wants to reroute incoming traffic through new Israeli-controlled terminals. Egypt has been trying to mediate the dispute.
Abbas is under growing pressure to give the fenced-in Gazans some freedom of movement as he heads into parliament elections in January and tries to beat back a strong challenge by Hamas (search).
In recent days, there was growing speculation that he might operate Rafah without an agreement, particularly after a Palestinian security commander said the border would reopen within 48 hours.
Abbas dispelled such rumors Monday, saying people were initially allowed to cross to celebrate the Israeli pullout.
"Our people enjoyed the freedom and moved through the borders and no one could deny them this right after 38 years of a stressful occupation and aggression," he said.
On Sunday, the Palestinian Authority (search) sealed all gaps in the 10-mile border and 2,000 security personnel fanned out, effectively closing it. The border was quiet on Monday.
On the Egyptian side of the border, hundreds of troops with automatic rifles and armored vehicles took up positions. Under an agreement with Israel, Egypt was deploying 750 border guards to prevent the illegal crossing of goods and people.
An Israeli official, traveling with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) in New York, said the chaos might delay reopening of the crossing.
Israel said it would remain closed for six months, but there has been a "deterioration," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make an official statement.
In Gaza City, meanwhile, Hamas held a military-style victory parade with thousands of gunmen and vehicles flaunting rockets.
The Islamic group, which has held several celebrations in recent days, said it drove Israel out with scores of attacks over the past five years.
Sharon said in New York that if Hamas does not disarm and cancel its covenant calling for destruction of Israel, "we are not going to provide any support" for the January parliamentary election.