GAZA: The United Nations expressed concern Monday over new Hamas checks at the border between Gaza and Israel, after the Islamist group began what it said were temporary security measures.
Hamas handed over the border to the internationally recognised Palestinian government in November as part of a reconciliation agreement that was meant to end a decade-long split between the two largest Palestinian factions.
But the deal has collapsed and last week Hamas implemented new checks on Palestinians seeking to leave the enclave, saying it was searching for a fugitive.
"Reports have emerged today indicating that Hamas has set up a checkpoint outside the Erez crossing, controlling the entrance of national and international personnel into Gaza and the exit of all Gaza ID holders," UN official Nikolay Mladenov said in an address to the Security Council.
Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that he noted the reports "with concern."
Israel has maintained a blockade of Gaza for a decade but permits small numbers of residents to leave for medical and other purposes.
A spokesman for the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza said its border measures were "temporary" and had been imposed as part of a manhunt for suspects in an attack on Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah's convoy.
Hamdallah was unhurt when a roadside bomb hit his convoy during a rare visit to Gaza on March 13, in which he was in part due to discuss the stalled reconciliation process.
Last week the main suspect announced by Hamas was killed by security forces during an arrest raid in Gaza.
President Mahmud Abbas, who oversees Hamdallah's government, has directly accused Hamas of the bombing, a claim the Islamist movement denied.
Hamas seized Gaza from Abbas’s forces in 2007 after a violent struggle.