Israel reopens Erez crossing with Gaza after period of relative calm

The crossing, which had been closed to all except humanitarian cases since August 19, is used by an average of 1,000 Gazans a day, according to Israel

Palestinians wait while others present travel documents to Palestinian Authority officers at the Erez Crossing with Israel near Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip on August 27, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)
Palestinians wait while others present travel documents to Palestinian Authority officers at the Erez Crossing with Israel near Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip on August 27, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Israel reopened its only pedestrian crossing with the Gaza Strip on Monday, a week after shutting it over violence along the border with the Hamas-run enclave.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Ministry unit that oversees the Erez crossing confirmed it had opened as planned on Monday morning.

On Sunday night, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the crossing was being reopened due to “calm that has been maintained over the past week.”

Israel closed the crossing except to humanitarian cases on August 19, after another round of violent protests and clashes on the border.

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

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)

A second crossing with Israel, Kerem Shalom, is used for the transportation of goods. It was reopened by Israel on August 15 after it was closed on July 9 to everything but food and medical equipment, following weeks of violence along the border, including arson attacks.

Some 5,000 Palestinians protested last Friday along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, according to Palestinian reports. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said some 189 demonstrators were wounded in clashes with IDF troops, including 50 who were hit by live fire.

The army said rioters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at troops.

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to throw stones at Israeli forces during a demonstration at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on August 24, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

According to Palestinian reports, Israeli snipers opened fire on two groups of Palestinians who tried to breach the border at two different locations.

Numerous reports have said Israel is in advanced talks with Hamas, via UN and Egyptian mediation, for a long-term truce in the Strip, although Liberman denies the claims.

Gaza has seen a surge of violence since the start of the “March of Return” protests along the border in March. The clashes, which Gaza’s Hamas rulers have orchestrated, have included rock and Molotov cocktail attacks on troops, as well as attempts to breach the border fence and attack Israeli soldiers.

Palestinians in Gaza have also launched incendiary airborne devices toward Israel, burning thousands of acres of forest and farmland resulting in millions of shekels of estimated damages.

At least 171 Gazans have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of the clashes, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. An Israeli soldier was shot to death by a Palestinian sniper. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of the Palestinian fatalities were members of terror groups.

Additionally, Israel and Hamas have engaged in a number of brief exchanges of fire in recent months that have seen terror groups in Gaza launch hundreds of rockets and mortars toward Israeli territory, including one earlier this month that was the largest flareup in violence since the 2014 war.

Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, seized the territory from the Palestinian Authority. It says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip.

Egypt also maintains a blockade on Gaza, with the Rafah border crossing only open for restricted periods of time.

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