Israel closes Gaza crossings, fishing zone in response to rocket fire

Defense Ministry announces closures until further notice after over 150 rockets fired at Israel from Hamas-run enclave

Palestinians are seen crossing at the Erez crossing with Israel near Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip on  August 27, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)
Palestinians are seen crossing at the Erez crossing with Israel near Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip on August 27, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Israel on Saturday afternoon announced the closure of the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings between Gaza and Israel, as well as the fishing zone off the coast of the Palestinian enclave, in response to the firing of over 150 rockets at Israel.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Defense Ministry body responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, announced that the closures would be until further notice.

An average of 1,000 Gazans cross through Erez each day, mostly those in need of medical care but also businesspeople, students, and others, according to Israeli authorities.

The Kerem Shalom crossing is used for transporting goods.

A woman looks at the damage caused by a rocket fired from Gaza that hit a house in a moshav in Israel near the border with Gaza, Saturday, May 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Last month, the fishing zone was expanded after Israel and Hamas reached an unofficial Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement, under which terror groups in the Strip would scale back violence along the Gaza border in exchange for economic and humanitarian concessions by Israel.

Palestinian fishing boats sail into the waters of the Mediterranean Sea in Gaza City, Monday, July 9, 2018, with buildings of Gaza City seen in background. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

IDF Spokesman Ronen Manelis told Channel 13 news that it was decided on Friday that, “it would be impossible to continue accepting the situation that Hamas is not controlling Islamic Jihad while Israel has responded positively to the arrangement.”

One of the first steps by Jerusalem last month was the expansion of the Gaza fishing zone from six nautical miles to 15 — a level that the coastal enclave has not seen in over a decade. The zone was reduced on Tuesday in response to the rocket fire from the Strip the night before.

Fishing is a significant source of revenue for Gaza. The size of the fishing zone has varied over the years, having been set at 20 nautical miles by the Oslo Accords of the 1990s before being reduced by Israeli authorities.

Over 150 rockets were launched at Israeli communities from the Strip since Saturday morning, with thousands of Israelis forced into shelters throughout multiple towns and cities near Gaza, including Rehovot, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Sderot.

The interior of a house hit by a rocket in the Eshkol Regional Council on May 4, 2019. The family had escaped to a shelter moments earlier (Israel Police)

At 3 p.m. sirens sounded for the first time as far as Beit Shemesh, a city 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of Jerusalem.

A woman, aged around 50, was in serious condition after being hit by shrapnel from a rocket in Kiryat Gat, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) northeast of the Gaza Strip. A man was moderately injured by shrapnel in the coastal city of Ashkelon.

Shortly after 3 p.m. the army said fighter jets and tanks had struck 30 “terror targets” in the Strip belonging to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups. The operations were ongoing.

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