Israel reopens people, goods crossings to Gaza after lull

The move followed efforts to prevent an escalation in ongoing violence. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 October 2018
0

Israel reopens people, goods crossings to Gaza after lull

  • Hamas disavowed the launch and said it was investigating the incident, as fears of a new war rose
  • Near daily protests along the border since March 30 against Israel’s crippling 11-year blockade of the impoverished enclave have sparked repeated clashes with the army

JERUSALEM: Israel ordered the country’s goods and people border crossings with Gaza to be opened on Sunday, just four days after shuttering them following a Palestinian rocket attack that sparked retaliatory air strikes.
The move followed efforts to prevent an escalation in violence that has raised fears of a new war between Israel and the Palestinian territory’s Hamas rulers.
“The decision comes after a decrease in the violent events in Gaza over the weekend and efforts Hamas made to restrain” demonstrators, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s office said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Lieberman had ordered the closure of the Kerem Shalom goods crossing and the Erez crossing for people, after a rocket from the Palestinian territory hit a home in southern Israel, prompting the Jewish state to strike 20 Hamas targets in Gaza.
Another rocket fell in the Mediterranean off Tel Aviv, without causing casualties or damage.
Hamas disavowed the launches and said it was investigating the incident, as alarm over a potential broader conflict rose.
But Israel rejected their denial, saying they were the only groups armed with rockets of that range.
Israel in any case holds Hamas responsible, as Gaza’s de factor rulers, for all fire from the territory regardless of who launches it.
Near daily protests along the Gaza border since March 30 against Israel’s crippling 11-year blockade of the impoverished enclave have sparked repeated clashes with the army.
More than 200 Palestinians and one Israeli have been killed in the violence.
On Friday, thousands again gathered for protests in northern Gaza, but demonstrators largely remained at least 100 meters (yards) from the border.
An Israeli army spokesman told AFP that while most of the protesters stayed back from the fence, some came close and threw explosive devices and hand grenades at troops, while burning tires.
At least 130 Palestinians were injured by live fire in clashes with Israeli soldiers, the Gaza health ministry said.
Hamas officials were seen discouraging protesters from nearing the fence.
Israel on October 12 already suspended the delivery of fuel for the Palestinian territory’s power plant that had been trucked daily into Gaza under a deal brokered by the United Nations.
A decision on renewed fuel deliveries “has been put off as for the time being and will be examined in a number of days based on events,” Lieberman’s office said Sunday.
An Egyptian security delegation that visited Gaza on Thursday had encouraged Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah to calm the protests, according to an Egyptian official.
On Friday, UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov also urged all sides “to exercise restraint, to proceed in a peaceful manner, and to avoid escalation.”
Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and fears of a fourth have spurred efforts by Egypt and the United Nations for a wider deal that would see Israel ease its blockade in exchange for a long-term truce.
jjm/hc


Divided Arab economic summit: We must help suffering refugees

Updated 9 min 46 sec ago
0

Divided Arab economic summit: We must help suffering refugees

  • Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil called for 'effective solutions' for the return of Syrian refugees to their country
  • Summit also called for dialogue over growing tensions between Israel and Palestine

BEIRUT: The fourth Arab Economic and Social Development Summit was held in Beirut on Sunday, in an effort to, among other things, find ways to alleviate the suffering of refugees in the Middle East.

The summit, though attended by representatives from 20 Arab nations, was soured by the absence of most Arab heads of state, and was divided over several issues, including the absence of Syrian delegates, and a boycott by Libya.

The summit did, though, call for dialogue with the international community over growing tensions between Israel and Palestine.

Delegates expressed their support for the Palestinian people, and cited the “collective responsibility” of all parties towards maintaining the city of Jerusalem’s “Islamic and Christian identity.”

In a statement, the summit declared: “We reiterate Palestinian refugees’ rights of return and compensation, according to the UN General Assembly’s resolution 194 of 1948.”

Delegates also discussed at great length the need for international cooperation to support the growing digital economy across the region. They emphasized “the importance of building the necessary capacity” to benefit from the digital economy, and praised the initiative launched by the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, to create a sovereign investment fund to support the development of technology in the Gulf and the Middle East.

They urged all Arab nations to “support this initiative to strengthen the joint Arab economy,” and called on other Arab banks and funds to invest in it.

The summit also praised the role of small and medium businesses across the Arab world for their contribution to flourishing Arab economies, as well as the implementation of the Pan-Arab Renewable Energy Strategy 2030, to ensure power across the region becomes cleaner and more sustainable.

The summit was far from harmonious, though, with the Lebanese foreign minister, Gebran Bassil, addressing the hall to ask the international community “to assume its responsibilities by finding effective solutions for the return of Syrian refugees to their country.”

Bassil called on Arab nations and others to “shoulder the burden, honor their commitments and meet the refugees’ needs.”

There were also disputes over the attendance of the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, as well as the boycott by Libyan delegates.

“I am saddened because of the absence of the Libyan delegation, and by the circumstances that led to this point,” Arab League president, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said.

Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, echoed the words of his foreign minister, calling on the international community “to exert all efforts to provide the safe return of Syrian refugees to their country, and to present incentives so they can contribute to their country’s reconstruction.”

He proposed the establishment of an international Arab bank to help affected countries overcome the crisis, and invited established Arab funds to Beirut to discuss his proposals.

“I deplore the absence of other Arab presidents and kings, but each of them has his reason. Our union remains of great importance given that we will not be able to address the challenges facing our region and peoples, unless we agree on key issues,” Aoun said.

The next Arab Economic and Social Development Summit will be held in Mauritania in 2023.