Israel closes Gaza border crossings after Palestinian rally

Palestinian Hamas supporters take part in a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the group's founding, in Gaza City, on Thursday. (Reuters)
Updated 14 December 2017
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Israel closes Gaza border crossings after Palestinian rally

JERUSALEM: Israel announced the closure of its Gaza border crossings on Thursday in response to daily rocket fire from the enclave over the past week after US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital stoked Palestinian anger.
Israeli aircraft struck three facilities belonging to Hamas, the group that controls the Gaza Strip, before dawn on Thursday after the latest rocket attacks, Israel’s military said.
It said it targeted training camps and weapons storage compounds. Hamas usually evacuates such facilities when border tensions spike.
Two of the rockets fired were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system and a third exploded in an open area. There were no reports of casualties on either side of the frontier.
The military said in a statement that “due to the security events and in accordance with security assessments” Kerem Shalom crossing — the main passage point for goods entering the Gaza Strip, and the Erez pedestrian crossing — would be shut as of Thursday. It did not say how long the closure would last.
Some 15 rockets have been fired into southern Israel since Trump’s Dec. 6 announcement, and none of the projectiles has caused serious injury or damage.
The attacks have drawn Israeli airstrikes that have killed two Hamas gunmen. Two other Palestinians have been killed in confrontations with Israeli troops during stone-throwing protests along the border.
Israeli Cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi said on Israel Radio that while Hamas, which last fought a war with Israel in 2014, was not carrying out the rocket strikes, it needed to rein in militants from “breakaway groups” or it would “find itself in a situation where it has to contend” with the Israeli military.
In Istanbul on Wednesday, a summit of more than 50 Muslim countries condemned Trump’s move and called on the world to respond by recognizing East Jerusalem, captured by Israel along with the West Bank in a 1967 war, as the capital of Palestine.
Trump’s declaration has been applauded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a recognition of political reality and Jews’s biblical links to Jerusalem, a city that is also holy to Muslims and Christians.


Libyan coast guard rescues some 160 Europe-bound migrants

Updated 55 min 53 sec ago
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Libyan coast guard rescues some 160 Europe-bound migrants

CAIRO: Libya’s coast guard says it has intercepted some 160 Europe-bound African migrants, including dozens of children and women, in the Mediterranean Sea near its shores.
Spokesman Ayoub Gassim says a boat carrying 158 passengers including 34 women and nine children was stopped Monday off the coast of the western town of Khoms.
Libya has emerged as a major transit point to Europe for those fleeing poverty and civil war elsewhere in Africa. Traffickers have exploited Libya’s chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi.
He says the migrants were given humanitarian and medical aid, and were taken to a refugee camp in Khoms town.
Libyan authorities have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of migrants, with European assistance.