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Israel demolishes disused Gaza cargo terminal to improve defenses in south

Karni Crossing, shuttered in 2011 after repeated terror attacks and rocket fire, to be replaced with upgraded security barrier

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

File: An Israeli armored personnel carrier in southern Israel watches over the Karni Crossing into the Gaza Strip, January 5, 2009. (Kobi Gideon / FLASH90)
File: An Israeli armored personnel carrier in southern Israel watches over the Karni Crossing into the Gaza Strip, January 5, 2009. (Kobi Gideon / FLASH90)

The Israeli military and Defense Ministry on Sunday began to demolish a disused cargo terminal between Israel and the Gaza Strip, more than a decade after it was closed.

The Israel Defense Forces said a barrier would be built in place of the Karni Crossing, in order to improve defenses on the southern frontier.

It will be built as an extension to the existing 40-mile (65-kilometer) barrier, which is made up of an underground reinforced concrete wall that is studded with sensors to detect tunnels; a 20-foot (six-meter) steel fence; a network of radar arrays and other surveillance sensors; and remote-controlled weaponry.

The IDF said the construction work would last several weeks.

The Karni Crossing, opened in 1994, was shuttered permanently in 2011 following the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and repeated terror attacks and rocket fire in the following years.

Its cargo transport operations were moved over to the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, while Palestinian pedestrians enter and exit the territory through the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip.

File: A Palestinian worker guards a gate that leads to Karni Crossing on the Gaza border, August 12, 2008. (Wissam Nassar/Flash 90)

The closed Karni Crossing was also the site of violent protests orchestrated by the Hamas terror group 2018 along the Gaza border. Palestinians had repeatedly hurled explosive devices at Israeli troops in the area.

The construction work came hours after rocket alerts were activated near communities inside Israel as Hamas launched missiles at Israeli aircraft, with Israeli jets carrying out retaliatory strikes against the terror group in the Gaza Strip, in the latest tit-for-tat that threatened to send the region spiraling into another round of conflict.

The IDF said it targeted a weapons workshop and tunnel used by Hamas for a Saturday evening rocket attack, which had broken a month of relative calm. The military later added that it targeted a Hamas military post in retaliation for the anti-aircraft fire.

A ball of fire and a plume of smoke rise above buildings in southern Gaza as Israeli warplanes strike the Palestinian enclave on December 4, 2022. (AFP)

There was no claim of responsibility for the Saturday night rocket launch, which came after Israeli officials reportedly expressed concerns over the weekend about potential retaliation, including in the form of rocket fire from Gaza, over the deaths of two Palestinian Islamic Jihad members.

Both PIJ and Hamas threatened to hit back over the deaths of the pair, who were killed Thursday during a military raid in the West Bank.

Over the past year, the PIJ has launched rockets at Israel in response to members being killed or arrested in the West Bank.

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