Erez Crossing reopens Sunday after two weeks, allowing 12,000 Gazans back to work

In first public appearance amid Israeli threats, Hamas chief in Strip Yahya Sinwar visits Al Jazeera offices: ‘I’m not hiding’

Palestinian workers are seen at the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, as they wait to enter Israel for work, on March 13, 2022. (Attia Muhammed/Flash90)
Palestinian workers are seen at the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, as they wait to enter Israel for work, on March 13, 2022. (Attia Muhammed/Flash90)

The Erez Crossing with the Gaza Strip is slated to reopen on Sunday nearly two weeks after it was shuttered, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians announced on Saturday evening.

“The continuation of the civil policy will be possible in accordance with situational assessments and the preservation of security stability,” the Defense Ministry body, known as COGAT, said in a statement.

Reopening the crossing will enable the 12,000 Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled enclave who hold Israeli work permits to once again enter Israel.

The Erez Crossing has been closed since May 3, when Israel shut down crossings to both Gaza and the West Bank during Memorial Day and Independence Day. It was due to reopen on May 6, but Israel kept it shuttered in the wake of a deadly terror attack in Elad on Independence Day.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar spoke out against the move.

“Renewing the entry of workers from Gaza into Israel at this time is not justified or correct,” Sa’ar said. “Sinwar and Hamas, who are engaged nonstop in terror and incitement, should be removed from their comfort zone.”

Yahya Sinwar, Hamas leader in Gaza, visits Al Jazeera’s offices in the coastal enclave on May 14, 2022. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Sa’ar was referring to Hamas in Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar, who made a public appearance on Saturday for the first time since calls began to echo in Israel for his assassination following the Elad terror attack.

On Independence Day, two Palestinian terrorists used an axe and a knife to kill three Israelis in Elad before fleeing the scene and being captured only 60 hours later. The attack came days after Sinwar gave a speech urging Palestinians to strike Israelis with whatever they had — including axes.

“Let everyone who has a rifle, ready it. And if you don’t have a rifle, ready your cleaver or an axe, or a knife,” Sinwar said at the time.

Following the attack, Israeli officials reportedly warned Sinwar that he could face retaliation if he continues his incitement.

On Saturday afternoon, paying a visit to the Gaza offices of Al Jazeera, Sinwar said he was not afraid of such threats.

“I’m not hiding,” he said.

Palestinian mourners wave national flags as they escort the casket of slain Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, during her funeral procession near Jaffa Gate, in the Old City of Jerusalem, on May 13, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Sinwar visited the TV station’s offices in a show of support following the death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Wednesday during clashes between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops during a military raid in the West Bank.

“Abu Akleh was killed more than once: First when they shot her and the second time with the attempts to prevent the funeral,” Sinwar said during his visit, referring to violent scenes at her funeral on Friday for which Israel has faced widespread condemnation.

Abu Akleh, 51, was killed by gunfire Wednesday morning while covering clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen during an Israeli military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has accused Israel of “executing” Abu Akleh. Israeli officials have declared that it is too soon to determine who fired the bullet that killed her.

In an interim report Friday, the Israel Defense Forces said it had not yet been able to determine who fired the fatal shot. But it said it had narrowed down the possibilities to two scenarios — one involving an instance of indiscriminate Palestinian gunfire, and the other a case of possible errant IDF sniper fire.

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