Hamas closes Erez Crossing, blocking cancer patients

Hamas says it has closed the Erez border crossing due to Israeli shelling, in a move that stranded a group of Palestinians planning to cross into Israel for medical treatment.

A group of about 20 Palestinians, some of whom were scheduled to enter Israel for cancer treatment, arrived at the crossing early on Tuesday, an AFP correspondent says.

There is no immediate confirmation of the closure from COGAT, the Israeli Defense Ministry unit responsible for the crossing.

But a Hamas official at the site insists the crossing was not open, and the gate leading to the tunnel that connects the Israeli and Gaza sides of the crossing is closed.

“The border has been closed because of constant Israeli shelling,” he says.

The crossing area has been hit previously, but there were no reports of shelling on Monday or Tuesday.

A second official says the crossing will remain closed until they receive international assurances that the terminal would be protected from Israeli airstrikes.

“We need an international guarantee that the crossing, and the route between the two sides of the crossing, will not be bombed by Israel,” he says.

The Erez crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel is ordinarily open for Palestinians granted rare permission to enter the Jewish state, usually for medical purposes.

Earlier in the week, Palestinians holding foreign passports evacuated through the crossing, fleeing an Israeli aerial campaign that has killed more than 185 people in response to Hamas rocket fire onto Israeli cities.