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Israel closes Gaza crossings in response to rocket fire

Senior Hamas official calls move ‘irresponsible’ and a violation of ceasefire

Illustrative: A general view shows the closed gates of the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, March 13, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Said Khatib)
Illustrative: A general view shows the closed gates of the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, March 13, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Said Khatib)

A senior Hamas official rapped Israel for closing the crossings into the Gaza Strip on Sunday, two days after a rocket was fired from the coastal enclave at southern Israel.

“This is irresponsible behavior and contrary to the understandings reached at the beginning of the ceasefire,” said Moussa Abu Marzouk, who was part of the Palestinian negotiating team in Cairo during the summer conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that “the crossing points for people and goods, Erez and Kerem Shalom, have been closed until further notice except for humanitarian aid.”

She added that the measure was taken after a rocket fired from Gaza hit the Eshkol area of southern Israel on Friday, without causing any casualties or damage.

It was the first to strike Israeli territory since September 16, and the second since the end of the 50-day war in late August.

Military officials initially said the rocket, fired late Friday, apparently fell inside Gaza territory and thus did not trigger warning sirens in the surrounding Israeli communities. However, the IDF later said that the rocket had actually fallen within Eshkol Regional Council territory, Israel Radio reported. Debris from the rocket has not yet been found.

Last Saturday, senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar criticized Israel for allegedly delaying the entry of construction materials into Gaza and warned that if the rehabilitation process in the Palestinian enclave does not speed up and become more efficient, the situation in the Strip may “erupt.”

While Israel has eased restrictions on the flow of goods and construction materials into Gaza, a scheduled summit for indirect negotiations on ceasefire details was delayed last week by Egypt in the aftermath of a deadly attack on its army in the Sinai that left 31 dead.

Egypt reportedly discovered that the attackers trained in Gaza before entering the Sinai Peninsula via smuggling tunnels, prompting Cairo to close its borders with the coastal enclave and begin construction on a buffer zone.

Egypt embarked on a major campaign last year to destroy smuggling tunnels between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, but reportedly has discovered hundreds more recently using satellite imagery.

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