EU donating $35 million to repair key Gaza crossing torched by rioters — report

EU donating $35 million to repair key Gaza crossing torched by rioters — report

A week after Palestinians heavily damage Kerem Shalom, fuel lines serving energy-starved Strip partially reopen

The Kerem Shalom border crossing between Gaza and Israel is torched for the third time in weeks by Palestinian rioters (Israel Defense Forces)
The Kerem Shalom border crossing between Gaza and Israel is torched for the third time in weeks by Palestinian rioters (Israel Defense Forces)

The European Union said Friday it will donate $35 million (30 million euros) to fully repair the Kerem Shalom Crossing into the Gaza Strip that was heavily damaged earlier in the week by Palestinian rioters, the Ynet news site reported.

A spokesperson for the EU later denied the news report, as did Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians.

The Defense Ministry announced Thursday that the fuel terminal at Kerem Shalom — the only cargo crossing between Gaza and Israel —  was partially repaired, and the flow of gasoline and diesel fuel supply to the Strip was gradually being restored.

The army said Kerem Shalom will reopen next week after the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, but is not expected to operate at full capacity.

The EU has already poured in tens of millions of euros to expand and upgrade the Kerem Shalom Crossing, which serves as the main terminal for commercial goods and humanitarian aid into Gaza. Ordinarily, hundreds of trucks pass through the crossing each day. Its fuel terminal is also the only way to bring significant quantities of diesel and gasoline into the beleaguered coastal enclave.

Three times this month, rioters from the Gaza Strip broke into the Palestinian side of the crossing and set fire to parts of the facility.

Rioters first attacked the crossing on May 4. They broke through the gates and, apparently believing they were in Israeli territory, set fire to the fuel lines, according to Israeli officials. In actuality, they were on the Palestinian side of the crossing.

Illustrative: A Palestinian truck loaded with supplies entered the southern Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah, on November 1, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

Last Friday, following a violent demonstration along the border, vandals entered Kerem Shalom and significantly damaged the fuel terminal, as well as a conveyor belt used to bring raw construction materials into Gaza and two other belts used to transport animal feed.

According to Israeli officials, the Hamas terrorist group directed the attack on the crossing. Its operatives instructed rioters “what to do, where to go,” a senior Israeli defense official told reporters.

After the Friday attack, Israel closed Kerem Shalom to assess the damage and determine how to repair the equipment.

On Monday, Palestinians again attacked the crossing, setting fire to parts of the facility for the third time, while it was still closed for repairs from the previous ransacking.

On Tuesday, Israel reopened the trucking lanes of the Kerem Shalom Crossing and began allowing through medical supplies and commercial goods, though in two cases Palestinian officials refused to accept the trucks.

Palestinian Authority officials, working on the Gaza side of the crossing, sent back 14 trucks worth of food and diapers on Tuesday, for unclear reasons. The next day, Hamas officials inside Gaza refused to accept two shipments of medical supplies, despite shortages in the Strip’s hospitals, because they were provided by the Israeli military.

An aerial view of Palestinian rioters setting fire to the Gaza Strip’s Kerem Shalom Crossing on May 14, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

While the inability to import medical equipment and other essential goods to the Gaza Strip due to the temporary closure of the crossing was a source of concern, international officials this week warned of the dire consequences of the lack of fuel.

The United Nations this week called for alternative way of getting gasoline and diesel, warning that dwindling supplies needed for essential services would only last a few more days.

“The impact of the destruction of the fuel and gas lines is already being felt,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its appeal. “To avoid a collapse of essential services, an alternative arrangement for the entry of fuel is urgently needed until the Kerem Shalom fuel pipelines are repaired.”

OCHA also called on Palestinian protesters to refrain from further damaging the border crossing and to retire operations at Kerem Shalom to full capacity.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on May 23 to include comments from the European Union on the Israeli report.

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