Israel temporarily shutters Gaza pedestrian crossing following border rioting

Erez Crossing closed over Rosh Hashanah; Palestinian laborers won’t be able to enter Israel for another 24 hours

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

A Palestinian guard at the Erez crossing   between Israel and the northern Gaza Strip in Beit Hanun, on August 4, 2022. (Attia Muhammed/Flash90)
A Palestinian guard at the Erez crossing between Israel and the northern Gaza Strip in Beit Hanun, on August 4, 2022. (Attia Muhammed/Flash90)

Israel announced the temporary closure of its sole pedestrian crossing with the Gaza Strip on Sunday night, in response to renewed rioting by Palestinians on the border.

According to the military’s liaison to the Palestinians, the Erez Crossing would not reopen for Palestinian workers on Monday morning after it had been shuttered since Friday morning due to the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, known by its acronym COGAT, said in a statement that it was announcing “the postponement of the opening of the Erez Crossing for the entry of Gazan laborers into Israel for an additional 24 hours.”

COGAT said the decision was made following an assessment of the situation by security officials and instructions by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi.

The crossing — along with checkpoints in the West Bank — was already closed since Friday at 12:01 a.m., and was to remain closed until Sunday at 11:59 p.m.

COGAT said the crossing would open following a fresh assessment on Monday. Exceptions are made for humanitarian and other outstanding cases but they require COGAT’s approval.

Illustrative: Palestinian workers wait at the Erez crossing in Beit Hanun as they wait to enter Israel for work, March 13, 2022. (Attia Muhammed/Flash90)

The closures affect more than 100,000 West Bank Palestinians and 17,000 Gazans who have permits to enter Israel for work.

On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip rioted on the border with Israel, for the second time in three days.

The Israel Defense Forces said the rioters set fire to tires and detonated explosive devices on the security barrier.

Palestinian rioters carry tires amid clash with Israeli soldiers on the Gaza border, east of Khan Yunis, September 17, 2023. (Yousef Mohammed/Flash90)

Troops responded with crowd dispersal means and live fire in some cases. The Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip said five Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire.

The Hamas terror group, which rules the territory, appears to have resumed regular violent protests along the frontier, with an increasing number of riots in recent weeks.

On Friday, the IDF carried out a drone strike against a Hamas observation post in the Gaza Strip in response to renewed rioting along the border.

The rioting on Friday and Sunday came as Israeli security forces were on high alert during the Rosh Hashanah holiday, amid a rise in warnings and intelligence tips about possible terror attacks.

There have been several other riots along the Gaza border in recent weeks, which have seen explosive devices being detonated on the security barrier and a handful of cases of gunfire toward Israeli troops. No IDF soldiers have been wounded.

Palestinian rioters burn tires during clashes with Israeli soldiers along the Israel-Gaza border on September 15, 2023. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

On Wednesday, six Palestinian rioters were killed, during an attempt to detonate a makeshift bomb on the border amid a riot.

The recent riots signal a return by Hamas and other terror factions in the Gaza Strip to a policy of regular mass protests and violence along the border, as Hamas seeks to draw attention to the worsening living conditions in the impoverished coastal strip after Qatar, one of the biggest donors of the regime, cut back on monthly disbursements.

Weekly protests along the frontier began at the end of March 2018 and continued almost every Friday until the end of 2019, with the demand that Israel lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave and a call for the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands that are now a part of the Jewish state.

Israel says its blockade of Gaza is necessary to prevent Hamas from freely arming itself for war and attacks.

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