Israel to close Gaza crossing after IDF airstrike in Rafah

Rare closure of Kerem Shalom comes for second time in a month as Israel puts pressure on Hamas to restore calm in the Strip

Illustrative. Defense Ministry contractors monitor the transfer of supplies and goods into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing on July 19, 2014. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative. Defense Ministry contractors monitor the transfer of supplies and goods into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing on July 19, 2014. (Israel Defense Forces)

In a rare move, the Israeli military announced Saturday night that the Kerem Shalom Crossing into the Gaza Strip would be kept closed beginning on Sunday, less than an hour before IDF jets carried out an airstrike in the coastal enclave.

The army said the decision to not open the crossing, which ordinarily sees hundreds of goods-bearing trucks pass through it each day, was made after a “situational assessment.”

A short while later, Israeli Air Force jets struck “terror infrastructure” in the southern Rafah region of the coastal enclave. Palestinian media later reported the target was a tunnel between Gaza and Egypt.

Once a rare move, this will be the second time Kerem Shalom is punitively closed in under a month, as Israel seeks to force the ruling Hamas terrorist group to restore calm to the Gaza Strip.

On December 14, following multiple rocket attacks from Gaza, Israel also shut down the Kerem Shalom Crossing, which is used for goods, along with Erez Crossing, through which people enter and exit the Strip.

The Erez Crossing opened a day later, and Kerem Shalom was reopened on December 17.

Palestinian protesters wave national flags during clashes with Israeli security forces on the eastern outskirts of Gaza City, near the border with Israel, on January 12, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)

On Friday, approximately 1,000 Palestinians took part in violent demonstrations in four separate locations along the security fence surrounding Gaza, rolling burning tires and throwing rocks at the barrier and the soldiers on the other side, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

In response, “troops fired live rounds selectively towards three main instigators, who posed a threat to IDF soldiers and the security fence,” the army said.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said dozens of Palestinians were injured by live fire, rubber bullets and tear gas during the riots.

On Saturday, the Defense Ministry’s chief liaison to the Palestinians warned residents of the Gaza Strip that the Hamas terror organization was using them in its quest for violence against Israel.

“Hamas terrorists send young people to riot at the [Gaza border]… while hiding behind them and claiming that these riots are spontaneous and peaceful,” Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories(COGAT), said on Facebook.

Mordechai pointed to photos of grenades hurled over the border fence on Friday, saying they were proof of Hamas’s lies.

#حماس_الارهابية تبعث الشباب لاثارة الشغب في #الجدار على الحدود مع #غزة وتسلحهم بالقنابل اليدوية من صناعتها وبينما تختبئ…

Posted by ‎المنسق‎ on Friday, January 12, 2018

“Pictures of these grenades found inside Israeli land indicate the truth!” he wrote. “That is why 11 Palestinians have died and dozens of others have been injured in recent weeks.”

The Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai. (Screenshot)

Since US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, there have been violent protests every Friday in the West Bank and Gaza, although their size has diminished in recent weeks.

“This is the Hamas approach,” Mordechai said. “To hide behind and send young people to carry out violent riots… Do not open the way for Hamas to exploit you. You are the only ones who pay!”

Hamas has urged Palestinians to confront soldiers at the border since the December declaration. Its leader, Ismail Haniyeh, has praised the “blessed intifada,” urged the liberation of Jerusalem, and made plain the group was seeking to intensify the violence against Israel.

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