Israel to reopen Gaza goods crossing if calm holds

Palestinian security forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority stand at the gate of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza, in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. (Said Khatib/AFP)
Updated 22 July 2018
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Israel to reopen Gaza goods crossing if calm holds

  • Israel to reopen goods crossing with the blockaded Gaza Strip on Tuesday if calm maintained
  • The crossing point has been closed since July 9 partly because of the use of kites carrying fire bombs

JERUSALEM: Israel will reopen its only goods crossing with the blockaded Gaza Strip on Tuesday if calm holds following a cease-fire, a minister said, after closing it July 9 partly over kites carrying firebombs.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned separately, however, that the military was prepared for far more intense strikes in the Gaza Strip if it deems necessary after a severe flare-up of violence on Friday.
UN officials meanwhile said that the Gaza Strip was facing serious fuel shortages affecting hospitals as well as water and sanitation facilities, calling for restrictions to be lifted.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday spoke of reopening the goods crossing, known as Kerem Shalom.
“If today and tomorrow the situation continues as it was yesterday, then on Tuesday we will allow Kerem Shalom to return to normal activity and the fishing zones will return to the same distances as before,” he said.
Lieberman, speaking at the crossing, stressed that calm also meant an end to months of kites and balloons carrying firebombs over the border fence from the Palestinian enclave run by Hamas to burn Israeli farmland.
Israeli authorities say hundreds of fires have been started by the firebombs since April.
Lieberman said “the key is quiet, calm, zero firebombs, zero friction on the fence and zero rockets or, God forbid, shooting.”
A spokesman for Israel’s fire service said there were no fires caused by the devices along the Gaza border on Saturday and Sunday. He said there had been an average of around 24 per day in recent weeks.
The comments by Lieberman and Netanyahu came after a cease-fire was reached following a major flare-up of violence between Palestinian in Gaza and Israel on Friday.
The escalation — the second in as many weeks — followed months of tension that have raised fears that a fourth war since 2008 could erupt between Hamas and Israel.
The cease-fire followed a wave of deadly Israeli air strikes across Gaza sparked by the death of an Israeli soldier shot near the border.
There has been relative calm on the Gaza border since the cease-fire.
“At the weekend we gave Hamas a very severe blow, and if necessary we will strike them sevenfold,” Netanyahu said.
Israel announced on July 9 that the goods crossing was being closed to most deliveries partly in response to the firebombs and other incidents along the border fence.
On July 17, it further tightened the restrictions to also prevent fuel deliveries while reducing the fishing zone Israel enforces off Gaza to three nautical miles from six.
The crossing has remained open for food and medicine on a case-by-case basis.
The UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Jamie McGoldrick, said Sunday that “supplies of emergency fuel provided by the UN for critical facilities in Gaza are being fast depleted.”
He called on Israel to end restrictions on fuel imports and warned hospitals could soon be forced to close, with emergency supplies set to run out in early August.
“Given ongoing blackouts of about 20 hours a day, if fuel does not come in immediately, people’s lives will be at stake, with the most vulnerable patients, like cardiac patients, those on dialysis, and newborns in intensive care, at highest risk,” he said in a statement.
Gaza suffers from a severe electricity shortage and relies on generators in many cases.
Mass protests and clashes erupted on the Gaza border on March 30 and have continued at varying levels since then.
At least 149 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since March 30. The soldier shot dead on Friday was the first Israeli killed in that period.
Gaza’s only other goods crossing is with Egypt. It had been kept largely closed in recent years, but Egypt opened it in mid-May and the crossing, known as Rafah, has remained open most of the time since then.


Turkey suspends over 250 local officials for ‘terror links’

Updated 15 October 2018
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Turkey suspends over 250 local officials for ‘terror links’

  • Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu removed 259 local neighborhood heads
  • Turkey has suspended or sacked over 140,000 public sector employees because of alleged links to the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen blamed for the July 2016 failed coup

ANKARA: Turkey has suspended more than 250 senior local officials over alleged terror links and activities unrelated to their posts, the interior ministry said on Monday, in the latest purge of the country’s bureaucracy.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu removed 259 local neighborhood heads — known as “muhtar” in Turkish — from their posts, his office said in a statement.
It did not provide further detail on what terror organizations the officials were allegedly linked to.
The muhtar is the elected chief of a village or a city neighborhood, and responsible for day-to-day services for residents such as registration.
Turkey has suspended or sacked over 140,000 public sector employees because of alleged links to the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen blamed for the July 2016 failed coup and Kurdish militants.
Turkey claims Gulen ordered the coup but he denies the accusations.
Last week, the ministry suspended 559 village guards — locals employed to combat Kurdish militants — accused of links to terror organizations while 76 were accused of people trafficking and drug crimes.
Turkey has been fighting an insurgency against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) since 1984.
The group is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.
Turkish authorities detained 137 people in country-wide operations earlier this month over alleged links to the PKK.