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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Israel partially reopens Gaza crossing after UN warns of hospital closures

Israel will resume transferring gas and fuel through Kerem Shalom

Palestinian trucks are seen at the gate of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza, in Rafah town in the southern Gaza Strip, 17 July 2018. EPA
Palestinian trucks are seen at the gate of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza, in Rafah town in the southern Gaza Strip, 17 July 2018. EPA

Israel partially reopened its only goods crossing with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday after a closure sparked by incendiary kites flown into Israeli territory by Palestinians in response to a wave of deadly shootings of protesters.

Fuel trucks resumed deliveries to the coastal enclave through the Kerem Shalom crossing. It came after the UN warned that hospitals were closing in the enclave because of fuel shortage caused by Israel’s economic blockade of the territory.

Gaza already suffers from 20-hour blackouts because of the lack of electricity, but now many of its health institutions, which serve the enclave’s wounded and ill, are close to shutting down.

"Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided that Kerem Shalom will partially reopen and as of today at 12:00 pm (0900 GMT) it will be possible to transfer gas and fuel into the Gaza Strip, in addition to food and medicine," Mr Lieberman's office said in a statement.

It said the crossing could return to full activity soon, "conditioned on the full cessation of fire-balloon launches and friction on the fence".

Israel has called for an end to the flying of the kites that have caused fires across the country’s south since April. But it said that devices were still being flown into Israeli territory.

Palestinians started flying the devices because of Israel’s 11-year siege that has left the territory on the brink of disaster. Israel has killed at least 149 Palestinians who were protesting that siege in rallies held every week since March 30.

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There have been months of tension between Israel and Hamas that saw two separate military flare-ups over the past couple of weekends.

The escalation has led to fears of another conflict between the two sides, who have fought three wars since 2008.

Following the latest round of violence on Friday, Israel and Hamas reached a ceasefire brokered by Egypt and UN officials that has since largely held.

Israel had carried out a wave of air strikes that killed three Hamas militants after one of its soldiers was shot dead along the Gaza border earlier that day.

The weekend before saw the most serious exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since the last war in 2014, in which Israel killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, many of them children.