Israel closes people crossing with Gaza

The border was closed after a weekend of demonstrations. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Updated 19 August 2018
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Israel closes people crossing with Gaza

  • Border protests and clashes on Friday left two Palestinians dead by Israeli gunfire
  • Israel’s army said firebombs and IEDs were also hurled at the border fence

JERUSALEM: Israel closed its only crossing for people with the Gaza Strip on Sunday except for humanitarian cases after border clashes, the latest tightening of its blockade on the Palestinian enclave.
The move could prevent Gazans from traveling via the crossing for this week’s Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha, which runs from Monday night until Thursday night, but Israeli officials did not say how long the closure would last.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement the closure was due to “violent incidents on the border last Friday.”
Border protests and clashes on Friday saw two Palestinians killed by Israeli gunfire.
Israel’s army said firebombs and improvised explosive devices were also hurled at the border fence, while a number of Palestinians briefly crossed into Israeli territory. No Israelis were reported wounded.
The closure and border incidents occurred despite attempts by Egypt and UN officials to reach a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the blockaded Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Authority civilian affairs office in Gaza also confirmed the closure except for medical cases and Palestinians seeking to cross back into the enclave.
Israel has enforced an air, land and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip for more than a decade, but grants permission to a limited number of people to cross for various reasons.
The two sides have fought three wars since 2008.
Israel had just last week reopened its only goods crossing with Gaza after closing it to most deliveries for more than a month over border tensions.
Gaza’s only other border is with Egypt.
Egypt’s Rafah crossing with Gaza had largely been kept closed in recent years, but Cairo opened it in mid-May and it is has mostly remained so since.
Protests and clashes began on the Gaza border on March 30 and have continued at varying levels since then.
At least 171 Gazans have been killed by Israeli fire during that time. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.
There have also been several severe military flare-ups, including three since July.
The latest was on August 9, when Israel responded to some 180 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza with widespread air strikes.
UN officials and Egypt have been seeking to secure a long-term truce between Hamas and Israel to allow for humanitarian issues in the impoverished enclave of two million people to be addressed.
Israel is demanding calm and a return of the remains of two soldiers Hamas is believed to be holding.
Two Israeli civilians, both said to be mentally unstable, are also believed to have entered Gaza and to be held by Hamas. Israel is also seeking their return.
Senior Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya told AFP on Friday that he believed a durable truce with Israel was near.
He said that UN and Egyptian talks taking place in Egypt with various Palestinian factions have “taken a big step forward toward understandings with the occupation... and the possibility of restoring calm.”
An Israeli official said on condition of anonymity Wednesday that an initial set of “understandings” had been reached with the help of the UN and Egypt, leading to several days of calm on the border last week and the opening of the goods crossing.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has however expressed concern over any agreement that bypasses the Palestinian Authority.
Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank, have been deeply divided for more than a decade.


New Qatari funds for Hamas employees expected this week: official

Updated 31 min 51 sec ago
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New Qatari funds for Hamas employees expected this week: official

  • The $15 million funds are expected to reach Gaza in the upcoming few days and be distributed immediately
  • The funds will cover salaries of around 40,000 Hamas civil servants

GAZA CITY: A fresh tranche of Qatari funds for Hamas civil servants in Gaza will be delivered via Israel this week, the Qatar ambassador to the Palestinian enclave said Monday.
Mohammed Al-Emadi is expected to bring the $15 million into the strip in the coming days, with funds to be distributed immediately.
“We are due to go to Gaza before the end of the week, most likely on Wednesday night,” Emadi told AFP by message from Doha. “We will pay the third payment,” he added, referring to two payments in previous months.
The funds pay the salaries of roughly 40,000 Hamas civil servants, as well as providing financial assistance to poor families in the empoverished strip.
They are injected with Israeli blessings after an informal truce deal between the Jewish state and the strip’s Islamist rulers Hamas.
Under the deal months of Hamas-backed protests along the border remain relatively quiet.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced right-wing criticism of the agreement, with his defense minister resigning in November accusing him of being soft on Hamas.
Separately Monday the World Health Organization warned it was “concerned” over the impact of critical fuel shortages in Gaza.
The strip suffers from chronic energy shortages, though the crisis had been eased in recent months with Qatar also allowed to import fuel to run Gaza’s sole power plant.
“The functionality of Gaza’s 14 public hospitals is increasingly jeopardized by electricity shortages,” the WHO said in a statement.
“Several of the most severely impacted hospitals have already put rationalization measures in place.
“Drastic service reductions, including closures of wards and hospitals, are imminent,” it added, saying hospitals had fuel reserves for only a few more days.