Hamas shuts Gaza crossing, blames Israel for terror chief’s killing
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Hamas shuts Gaza crossing, blames Israel for terror chief’s killing

Terror group slams closed Erez border gate, used for pedestrian traffic, in response to assassination of Mazen Faqha by unknown shooter last week

Palestinians prepare to cross from Israel into the Gaza Strip at the Erez Crossing, September 3, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Palestinians prepare to cross from Israel into the Gaza Strip at the Erez Crossing, September 3, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Hamas terror group shut a key crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Sunday after blaming the Jewish state for the assassination of one of its terror chiefs in the Palestinian enclave.

A statement from the interior ministry in Gaza, run by Islamist movement Hamas, said it was shutting the Erez crossing for an indefinite period as it investigates the killing on Friday.

Israel did not immediately comment in detail on Sunday’s closure but said its side of the crossing remained open.

Hamas officials have blamed Israeli intelligence agency Mossad for the killing of Mazen Faqha, 38, who was shot dead by unknown gunmen in the Gaza Strip on Friday.

Mazen Faqha, upon his release after the Shalit deal in 2011. (Screen capture Twitter)
Mazen Faqha, upon his release after the Shalit deal in 2011. (Screen capture Twitter)

Israel has not commented on the shooting.

According to Israeli media, Faqha was responsible for terror cells of Hamas’s militant wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, in the West Bank.

Israel arrested Faqha and sentenced him to prison over suicide attacks that killed hundreds of Israelis during the second intifada, or uprising, between 2000 and 2005. He was convicted of orchestrating a 2002 suicide bombing in which nine Israelis were killed.

He was released in 2011 along with more than 1,000 other Palestinians in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier Hamas kidnapped during a cross-border raid into Israel and then held hostage in Gaza for five years.

Faqha was shot to death on Friday near his home in Tel el-Hawa, a neighborhood in southwestern Gaza City, by assailants using a weapon equipped with a silencer. He was hit by four bullets to the head, Gaza reports quoted by Army Radio said.

Thousands of Hamas supporters on Saturday called for “revenge” during Faqha’s Gaza funeral, as leaders of the terror group continued to blame Israel for his killing and threatened retribution.

The body of Hamas official Mazen Faqha is carried by members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, during his funeral in Gaza city on March 25, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)
The body of Hamas official Mazen Faqha is carried by members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, during his funeral in Gaza city on March 25, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

The Erez crossing is the only one between Gaza and Israel for people. Another crossing with Israel, Kerem Shalom, is used for goods.

Israel has maintained a blockade on Gaza for a decade but business people and humanitarian cases can often get permits to come and go through the Erez crossing.

Hamas Interior Minister Eyad al-Bosom said in a post on his Facebook page that Gazans who entered Israel for humanitarian reasons will be allowed back into Gaza.

Jerusalem says the blockade is necessary to keep Hamas, labeled a terror group by Israel and the US, from building up military capabilities. Palestinian terror groups in Gaza and Israel have fought three wars since 2008.

Gaza’s sole crossing with Egypt has also remained largely closed in recent years.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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