Israel reopened its main crossings with the Gaza Strip on Sunday as part of a reported ceasefire agreement, after a weekend that saw low-level clashes along the border but no major outbreaks of violence.
The move came days after Israel removed restrictions on a 12-mile fishing zone off the Strip as the sides appeared to keep to a reported Egypt-brokered ceasefire that ended a deadly two-day flareup last week.
“Tomorrow (Sunday), the Erez and Kerem Shalom Crossings will be opened, according to regular operating hours,” COGAT, the Israeli Defense Ministry body that liaises with the Palestinians, said in a statement Saturday night.
Erez, in northern Gaza, is the main terminal for civilian traffic while Kerem Shalom in the south of the Strip mainly serves commercial goods. The crossings were closed when violence broke out last week and remained shuttered for the Memorial Day and Independence Day holidays on May 7-9.
Over the weekend, one Palestinian was killed and 30 were wounded as thousands gathered on the Gaza Strip border Friday for weekly protests, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry. The violence was seen as a major test for the calm that has prevailed since intense fighting last weekend between Israel and terror groups in the coastal enclave.
In some of the heaviest fighting in years, Palestinians shot almost 700 projectiles into Israel on May 4-5, and Israel responded with hundreds of airstrikes. Four Israelis were killed, as were 29 Gazans, including at least 11 members of terror groups.
Palestinian factions announced the ceasefire early Monday. Israel has refused to officially confirm the ceasefire understandings.
On Friday, UN Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov spoke with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. The two discussed efforts to implement understandings reportedly reached between Israel and Hamas to prevent renewed violence, the Kan public broadcaster quoted Haniyeh’s office as saying.
Along with Egypt and Qatar, the UN’s Mladenov has played a lead role in brokering talks on a truce between Israel and Hamas and reaching understandings to end flareups between the sides that have broken out periodically since the start of the March of Return border protests last March.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said that the fighting in Gaza has not ended.
Representatives of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups have also threatened to resume fighting if the ceasefire deal is not implemented.
An Israeli military official said earlier this week that authorities were pressed to end the fighting before the national holidays that ended Thursday and Israel’s hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest next week. The official warned that fighting could resume soon after in the absence of measures aimed at easing humanitarian assistance to those in the Strip.
Haaretz reported Saturday that Qatar was planning to transfer $30 million to the Strip next week — part of a sum of $480 million the Gulf state has pledged for Gaza and the West Bank.
Doha has said the money will be intended for various aid purposes. It was not clear what exactly the $30 million were earmarked for.