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Soldier hurt by mortar fire while assisting in transfer of aid at Gaza crossing

Israel had reopened the passages into the Strip earlier in the day to let in badly needed fuel, medical equipment, closes them again following attack

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A Palestinian policeman waves on a truck as it enters through the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip on September 1, 2020, after a Qatari-mediated deal with Israel. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
Illustrative. A Palestinian policeman waves on a truck as it enters through the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip on September 1, 2020, after a Qatari-mediated deal with Israel. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The Israel Defense Forces said Tuesday that a soldier was lightly wounded in a mortar attack while assisting in the transfer of humanitarian aid shipments into the Gaza Strip through the Erez Crossing.

The injured 19-year-old was taken to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center for treatment for shrapnel wounds to his lower body. Medics said he was fully conscious.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israel temporarily reopened both the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings into Gaza, allowing many truckloads of desperately needed fuel, medical equipment and animal feed into the enclave, according to Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians, known formally as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

The move was hailed by the United Nations in light of the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, whose sole power plant has been rationing fuel and cutting electricity service to the beleaguered enclave. These power cuts have disrupted the flow of running water and sewage treatment in Gaza, according to the Israeli military.

While the crossings were opened, terrorists in the Strip launched a large mortar barrage across the border, reportedly firing dozens of shells throughout the area, including at Kerem Shalom and Erez. No injuries were reported at the Kerem Shalom Crossing; residents of the area reported seeing indications that the Iron Dome missile defense system had intercepted some of the incoming projectiles there.

The liaison said that in light of the attack, Israel decided to again close the crossings into Gaza.

According to Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry, at least 213 Palestinians have been killed in the nine days of the conflict since Monday, including more than 60 children. It was not immediately clear if this ministry tally included all of those killed or if there were Hamas operatives not included in the count.

According to IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman, more than 130 of those killed were members of Hamas and more than 25 were members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as of Monday night. Additional terrorist operatives were likely killed in predawn strikes by the IDF on Tuesday, Zilberman said.

On Sunday, 42 Palestinians were reported killed in the deadliest single strike since the violence erupted a week ago. The IDF said it had targeted Hamas infrastructure under the homes of Palestinian civilians.

Twelve people in Israel, three of them foreign nationals, have been killed in the rocket fire, including a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl, and hundreds have been injured.

After midnight on Monday, US President Joe Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the bloodshed in Israel and Gaza, and “expressed his support for a ceasefire,” according to the White House

Biden’s decision to express support for, but not explicitly demand, a ceasefire was intentional, an administration official familiar with the call said. However, a diplomatic source familiar with Egypt’s efforts to broker a ceasefire told The Times of Israel on Tuesday, “we’re close” and that it could be reached in “two days maximum.”

Channel 12 reported that Egypt told Hamas on Monday evening that if it wants a ceasefire, it needs to stop firing at Israel. The network speculated that this may be the reason why Hamas did not make good on its promise to fire at Tel Aviv in the evening.

Also, Monday, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi told the heads of local governments around the Gaza Strip that the fighting in the enclave would continue for at least the next two days, but will continue “as long as it must.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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