Qatari fuel flows into Gaza as relative calm persists on border

Defense minister allows shipments to enter Strip after halting them following a rocket that struck a Beersheba home

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

A supply of Qatari-purchased fuel entered the Gaza Strip for the first time in a week on Wednesday, following a comparatively calm week in the restive coastal enclave, officials said.

The Israeli Defense Ministry’s liaison unit to the Palestinians confirmed reports from Gaza that a shipment of fuel had entered the Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing in the morning.

However, the liaison unit, known formally as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, would not specify the amount of fuel that entered the coastal enclave.

On Tuesday evening, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s office announced the fuel would be allowed into the Strip. It had been kept out for a week, following a flareup between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group that was sparked by a rocket fired from the enclave that struck a home in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba.

“In accordance with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s decision from Sunday and in accordance with recommendations from security bodies, it has been decided that the supply of ‘Qatari fuel’ to Gaza will be renewed starting tomorrow,” the office said in a statement.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks on stage, at the Maariv conference in Jerusalem, October 15, 2018. (Screen capture)

The defense minister had also ordered the Erez pedestrian crossing and Kerem Shalom goods crossing closed last Wednesday, after the rocket seriously damaged the Beersheba home and another landed in the sea off the coast of the greater Tel Aviv area.

Israel reopened the Gaza crossings on Sunday, allowing people and goods in and out of the coastal enclave.

The past week saw a significant decrease in the amount of violence along the Gaza security fence compared to previous weeks, both in terms of the number of people participating in border riots and the intensity of the clashes.

Israeli defense officials described the demonstrations as some of the quietest days since the wave of protests dubbed the “March of Return” began on March 30.

Israeli soldiers taking position during clashes with Palestinian protesters across the Gaza border, on October 19, 2018 in Nahal Oz. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Israeli officials believe Hamas has changed its policies regarding the clashes, and was working toward curbing violence at the rallies, which have become a near-daily occurrence, Hadashot TV news reported Friday.

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have participated in a series of protests and riots that have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks and bombings as well as the sending of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel.

Some 157 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more have been injured in the clashes with IDF troops, according to AP figures. Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, has acknowledged that dozens of the dead were its members. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a sniper on the border earlier this year.

Michael Bachner and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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