Israel to reopen Gaza goods crossing Wednesday if calm maintained

Jerusalem: Israel will reopen its only goods crossing with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday if calm is maintained, after having prevented most deliveries since July 9 over border tensions, the defence ministry said Tuesday.

“Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman this afternoon held a situation assessment” with security chiefs, his office said in a statement on Tuesday.

“In the meeting it was decided that if the quiet which has been maintained on the Gaza border continues until tomorrow morning, Kerem Shalom crossing will open tomorrow at 9:00 am (0600 GMT) and the fishing zone will be expanded back to nine miles from the beach.”

Kerem Shalom has been closed to most goods since July 9. Fuel has intermittently been banned during that time, including since August 2, though food and medicine has been allowed.

Last month, Israel also reduced the limits of the fishing zone it allows fishermen off the blockaded Gaza Strip to three nautical miles offshore.

Gaza border protests and clashes broke out on March 30 and have led to months of tension that have also seen several military flare-ups.

Israel has also been seeking to stop kites and balloons carrying firebombs over the border fence to burn Israeli farmland.

At least 169 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli fire since March 30, mostly during clashes and protests.

One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.

Israel says its blockade is necessary to keep Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.

There have been efforts by United Nations officials and Egypt to secure a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, though Israeli officials have not commented on them.

A fragile truce came into effect Thursday night, mediated by Egypt and the UN, according to a source close to the negotiations.

Thursday saw extensive Israeli air strikes in retaliation for the launching of more than 180 rockets and mortar rounds by Hamas and its allies beginning on Wednesday night.

Three Palestinians were killed in the Israeli strikes, including a mother and her 18-month-old daughter, while seven Israelis were wounded by Palestinian rocket fire as hundreds took refuge in bomb shelters.

It was one of the most serious escalations since the 2014 Gaza war and followed months of rising tensions.

Gaza’s only other goods crossing is at Rafah on the Egyptian border.

That checkpoint had largely been kept closed in recent years, but Egypt opened it in mid-May and it is has mostly remained so since.

Agence France-Presse