Israeli authorities on Tuesday closed indefinitely the entry point for goods between the Hebrew state and the Gaza Strip in retaliation for further fire of incendiary balloons from the impoverished Palestinian enclave.
Over the past week, incendiary balloons have been launched several times from the Palestinian enclave into Israel, leading to retaliatory Israeli strikes against positions of the ruling Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza.
In the process, the Jewish state announced early Tuesday the closure of the strategic crossing point of Kerem Shalom except for “essential humanitarian aid and fuel”.
“This decision was taken because of the incessant launching of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip towards Israel,” the Israeli body responsible for civilian operations in the Palestinian Territories (Cogat) said in a statement, which accuses Hamas of to be “responsible” for these throws from the enclave of two million inhabitants.
“Balloon terrorism will pay a heavy price, we will not tolerate it (…) They should remember what we have done in the past because we can still do it today”, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another large Islamist armed group in Gaza.
In a statement, Hamas denounced an “aggressive” measure by Israel which “testifies to its insistence on besieging” the population of the enclave and which can only contribute to “worsening” the humanitarian situation.
According to the World Bank, around 53% of Gaza’s population lived below the poverty line before the novel coronavirus crisis, but that number could rise to 64% due to the economic slowdown linked to the pandemic.
While Kerem Shalom’s cargo crossing point has closed, the Rafah border post between Gaza and Egypt, closed in April due to the pandemic, reopened for three days on Tuesday.
The Rafah crossing had been opened in April to allow entry of Gazans from abroad, but this time the border post was opened in both directions, allowing part of the population to leave Gaza for the first time since. the start of the pandemic.
Hamas and Israel have fought three wars (2008, 2012, 2014) since the takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas in 2007 which pushed Israel to impose a blockade on this Palestinian territory bordering Egypt.
Despite a truce last year, favored by the UN, Egypt and Qatar, the two sides clash sporadically with rockets, mortar shells or incendiary balloons from Gaza and retaliatory strikes of the Israeli army.
According to Palestinian analysts, the shootings from Gaza are aimed at putting pressure on the Jewish state to give the green light for the entry of financial aid from Qatar into the enclave.
“These rockets and incendiary balloons are messages from Hamas to Israel to improve economic conditions in the enclave, ease the blockade and implement part of the agreements reached by the two sides via Egypt,” he said. ‘AFP Jamal Al-Fadi, professor of political science at al-Azhar University in Gaza.
“I don’t expect a war because neither side wants a war” at this point, he added.