Israel closes Gaza border crossings after air strikes

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered the closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing, above, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza. (AFP)
Updated 17 October 2018
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Israel closes Gaza border crossings after air strikes

  • Six sites were hit in the Gaza Strip, Hamas said in a statement
  • he UN says Israel’s 11-year blockade has resulted in a ‘catastrophic’ humanitarian situation

JERUSALEM: Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered the closure of both of Israel’s border crossings with Gaza on Wednesday after a Palestinian rocket attack hit a southern city prompting retaliatory air strikes.
Lieberman ordered the closure of the Kerem Shalom goods crossing and the Erez crossing for people, and the reduction of the permitted fishing zone along the Gaza coast to three nautical miles, the defense ministry body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, COGAT, said.
“Israeli jets started to attack terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip,” the Israeli army said.
Six sites were hit in the Gaza Strip, its rulers Hamas said in a statement. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
A few hours earlier, a rocket hit the city of Beersheba — one of the first fired in recent weeks from the Palestinian territory.
“At 4 am (0100 GMT), Israelis in the city of Beersheba were running to bomb shelters after a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip at Israel,” the Israeli army tweeted.
“We will defend Israeli civilians,” it added, suggesting there would be a military response.
Israeli police said: “A rocket struck the city of Beersheva a few moments ago causing damage.” There were no reports of casualties.
The rocket struck the garden of a house occupied by a family with three children who were being treated for shock, Israeli media reported.
The army reported another rocket was fired toward the sea.
It was unclear who fired the rockets but the Israeli army holds Hamas accountable for all rocket fire from the territory and commonly retaliates against its positions, regardless of who launched the weapons.
It comes after months of Palestinian protests along the Gaza border that have drawn a deadly response from Israeli troops and raised fears of a new war between Israel and Hamas, who have fought three since 2008.
At least 205 Palestinians have been killed since the protests began on March 30. One Israeli soldiers has been killed by Palestinian sniper fire over the same period.
The protesters have been demanding the right of return to land now inside Israel, from which their families were expelled or fled during the 1948 war that accompanied the creation of the Jewish state.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that the protests could not be allowed to go on.
“We are not prepared to accept the level of violence we see week after week,” he told troops and commanders at an army base near the Gaza border.
He also suspended deliveries of fuel that had been trucked daily into Gaza over the previous week under a deal brokered by the United Nations.
It had seen thousands of liters (gallons) of fuel paid for by gas-rich Gulf state Qatar delivered to boost power generation in the impoverished territory.
The UN says Israel’s 11-year blockade has resulted in a “catastrophic” humanitarian situation.
Gaza’s two million residents endure routine power cuts and a chronic shortage of safe drinking water, and more than two-thirds are dependent on international aid.


Coalition hits back over reported civilian deaths in east Syria

Updated 18 November 2018
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Coalition hits back over reported civilian deaths in east Syria

  • 43 people were killed in the strikes launched by the coalition
  • The US-led coalition has consistently denied reports by the Observatory in recent days

BEIRUT: The US-led anti-militant coalition hit back Sunday at reports its air strikes on a Daesh group holdout in eastern Syria had killed civilians, appearing to blame their deaths on regime forces.
More than seven years into the country’s civil war, multiple offensives have whittled down the swathes of Syrian territory Daesh once controlled to a small pocket in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor on the Iraqi border.
A Kurdish-led alliance backed by the coalition is battling to expel Daesh from that holdout, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates.
Russian-backed regime forces have been fighting the militants west of the river.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said coalition strikes on Saturday killed 43 people, including 36 family members of Daesh fighters in the village of Abu Al-Husn.
But the coalition denied that its air raids there had killed any non-combatants.
The US envoy for the coalition, Brett McGurk on Sunday appeared to blame regime forces stationed “across the river” for the civilian casualties.
“Reports of civilian casualties attributed to coalition strikes are false. All other forces should cease uncoordinated fires from across the river immediately,” he said on Twitter.
In a statement late Saturday, the coalition reported 19 coalition strikes on Daesh targets “free of civilian presence” between late Friday and Saturday afternoon in the militant enclave, which includes the town of Hajjin.
The coalition’s “initial assessment following the strikes is that there was no evidence of civilians near the strikes,” it said.
But the coalition “detected a total of ten additional strikes in the same area of Hajjin that did not originate from the coalition or partner forces,” it added.
It called “on all other actors to cease uncoordinated fires across the Euphrates.”
The Observatory, a Britain-based war monitor, said regime forces and Daesh fighters exchanged fire across the river on Saturday, but pro-government shelling did not hit Abu Al-Husn.
The US-led international coalition has consistently denied reports by the Observatory in recent days that its air raids have killed civilians.
It says it takes allegations of civilian casualties seriously and investigates each one thoroughly.
Daesh overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” in land it controlled.
But the militant group has since lost most of it to offensives by multiple forces in both countries.
On Saturday, Syrian regime forces retook control of the group’s last holdout in the country’s south as the militants retreated into the desert after months of fighting, the Observatory said.
Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
Since 2014, the US-led coalition has acknowledged direct responsibility for over 1,100 civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq, but rights groups put the number much higher.