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IDF temporarily closes off areas near Gaza border amid warnings of attack

Military reopens sites 2.5 hours later; move comes after both Hamas and Islamic Jihad threatened to renew violence along the frontier in recent weeks

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli soldiers block a road near the Gaza border on April 24, 2021 (Flash90)
Israeli soldiers block a road near the Gaza border on April 24, 2021 (Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday closed off a number of areas near the Gaza border for several hours amid threats of attack by terror groups in the enclave.

The five sites affected by the move are all in direct line of sight from the Strip, making them vulnerable to anti-tank guided missile attacks and sniper fire.

“The entrance to the Black Arrow memorial site” — which has been targeted by ATGM attacks from Gaza in the past — “the Bells Hill, named for Asaf Siboni, may his memory be blessed; Nizmit Hill; the Garden of the Fallen; and the Lone Ranger Hill will be closed,” the military said.

The IDF said the highly irregular decision to close the sites was made following a “situational assessment.”

The military said no other safety instructions or precautionary measures were issued to residents of the area. Agricultural work near the border was allowed to continue.

Some two-and-a-half hours later, the closures were rescinded.

“It was decided to open the paths and sites near the Gaza Strip security fence that were closed earlier today,” the military said.

In recent days both Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad have issued ultimatums to Israel, threatening to renew violence if their demands weren’t met.

A picture taken on November 12, 2018, shows a bus set ablaze after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, at the Israel-Gaza border near the kibbutz of Kfar Aza, on November 12, 2018. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

Hamas on Sunday demanded that Israel permit some $8 million in Qatari funds to enter the Gaza Strip, to be used to pay the salaries of Hamas officials.

In a deal brokered between Israel, Qatar, the United Nations, and Hamas, Doha has been allowed to send millions of dollars into Gaza on a monthly basis, meant to be distributed to needy families in the beleaguered enclave. Under the agreement, however, the funds would not be permitted to go to the Hamas-employed civil servants in the Strip, a stipulation that has rankled the terror group, which has served as the de facto ruler of Gaza since 2007.

Separately, the Islamic Jihad terror group has issued repeated threats toward Israel over the treatment of Palestinian inmates in Israeli prisons, following the escape of six such prisoners — five of whom belonged to the organization — last month. All six were captured by Israeli security forces in the weeks following their escape.

Last week, the terror group announced it was “calling up all of its fighters” as part of its threats.

“We are at full alert, awaiting the order,” the Islamic Jihad’s military wing said in a statement.

Israel and terror groups in Gaza fought a punishing 11-day conflict in May, in which 13 people in Israel — 12 civilians and one soldier — were killed and some 250 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, roughly half of them civilians.

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