Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 August 2020

Israel reopens Gaza border crossings after reported ceasefire agreed

It comes after one of the worst escalations in the coastal enclave since the 2014 war

A Palestinian child looks at trucks at the gate of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza, in Rafah town in the southern Gaza Strip. EPA
A Palestinian child looks at trucks at the gate of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza, in Rafah town in the southern Gaza Strip. EPA

Israel opened its crossings with Gaza on Sunday as a reported ceasefire came into effect following one of the worst escalations in the coastal enclave since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, the rulers of the territory.

A fragile truce negotiated by Egypt and the United Nations has come into effect and part of the agreement is that Israel eases some parts of its decade-long blockade of the territory. Israel also lifted its ban on fishing boats operating off of Gaza's coast on Friday.

Both the Erez crossing for people and Kerem Shalom crossing for goods were open and operating, a spokeswoman for Cogat, the defence ministry unit that oversees the crossings, said in a statement.

Both had been closed on May 4, when Gaza rulers Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad fired hundreds of rockets at Israel after soldiers fired bullets at Gazan protests. The army struck dozens of targets in Gaza in response to the rocket fire.

Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed in the two-day flare-up, which ended on Monday in a tentative truce.

Palestinian officials said Israel had agreed to ease its crippling decade-long blockade of the impoverished enclave in exchange for calm.

Israel did not publicly confirm the deal.

On Friday, Israeli gunfire killed one Palestinian at a weekly demonstration at the Gaza-Israel border fence, the first escalation under the reported ceasefire.

Gazans have held weekly rallies since March 2018, primarily to draw international attention to the dire living conditions.

More than 200 Palestinians and an Israeli soldier have been killed during the yearlong marches. The protests have often devolved into cycles of cross-border conflicts quickly defused with short-lived truces mediated by Egypt and the United Nations.

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Palestinian families mark Ramadan amid the rubble in Gaza

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On May 15, protest organisers are calling for a massive border march to mark the 71st anniversary of what Palestinians call the "Nakba," or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in the 1948 war that led to the establishment of Israel.

This year, Nakba day protests fall during the week of the hugely popular Eurovision Song Contest in Israel, putting Israeli officials on edge. The contest will draw thousands of foreign visitors to Tel Aviv.

Israel says its blockade is necessary to isolate Gazan rulers Hamas, with whom it has fought three wars since 2008.

But critics say it amounts to collective punishment of Gaza's two million residents. The UN has said that the territory will become unlivable by 2020.

Updated: May 12, 2019 11:01 AM

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