With violence ‘significantly reduced,’ Israel to reopen Erez crossing to Gaza
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With violence ‘significantly reduced,’ Israel to reopen Erez crossing to Gaza

Despite some violent protests, arson kites, defense minister announces sole pedestrian passage, closed for a week, will be reopened Monday

Passengers at Erez Crossing, located at the Israel-Gaze border, as a ceasefire holds after day of intense Israel-Hamas fighting on July 15, 2018. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)
Passengers at Erez Crossing, located at the Israel-Gaze border, as a ceasefire holds after day of intense Israel-Hamas fighting on July 15, 2018. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced on Sunday that he will open the Erez Crossing on the Gaza Strip’s northern border beginning on Monday, due to the “significantly reduced” number of violent incidents stemming from the Hamas-run coastal enclave.

The border crossing, which acts as the only pedestrian crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel, has been closed for the past week.

The Defense Ministry statement said the decision to reopen the crossing came “in light of the security calm that was upheld over the past week and the significantly reduced [number] of [violent] incidents.”

However, the past week has seen violent border protests and some arson kites flown into Israel.

Some 5,000 Palestinians protested last Friday along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, according to Palestinian reports. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said some 189 demonstrators were wounded in clashes with IDF troops, including 50 who were hit by live fire.

The army said rioters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at troops.

Palestinian protesters throw stones at Israeli forces as a man waves the national flag during a demonstration at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on August 24, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

According to Palestinian reports, Israeli snipers opened fire on two groups of Palestinians who tried to breach the border at two different locations.

One incendiary kite sent over the border from the Gaza Strip caused a fire in the Sha’ar Hanegev region.

The border clashes came hours after Liberman denied involvement in talks on a long-term ceasefire agreement with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Numerous reports have said Israel is in advanced talks with Hamas, via UN and Egyptian mediation, for a long-term truce in the Strip.

Gaza has seen a surge of violence since the start of the “March of Return” protests along the border in March. The clashes, which Gaza’s Hamas rulers have orchestrated, have included rock and Molotov cocktail attacks on troops, as well as attempts to breach the border fence and attack Israeli soldiers.

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to throw stones at Israeli forces during a demonstration at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on August 24, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

Palestinians in Gaza have also launched incendiary airborne devices toward Israel, burning thousands of acres of forest and farmland resulting in millions of shekels of estimated damages.

At least 171 Gazans have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of the clashes, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. An Israeli soldier was shot to death by a Palestinian sniper. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of the Palestinian fatalities were members of terror groups.

Additionally, Israel and Hamas have engaged in a number of brief exchanges of fire in recent months that have seen terror groups in Gaza launch hundreds of rockets and mortars toward Israeli territory, including one earlier this month that was the largest flareup in violence since the 2014 war.

UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov and Egyptian officials have been seeking to broker a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas. The two sides have fought three wars since 2008.

Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, seized the territory from the Palestinian Authority. It says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip.

Israel closed the Kerem Shalom Crossing, the main goods crossing into the beleaguered Palestinian enclave, on July 9 to everything but food and medical equipment, following weeks of violence along the border, including arson attacks. It reopened the commercial crossing on August 15.

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