Friday, April 19, 2019 | ePaper
Israel reopens its sole people crossing with Gaza
AFP, Jerusalem :
Palestinians pass through the Erez crossing with Israel, near Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip
Israel reopened its only crossing for people with the Gaza Strip on Thursday, more than a week after shutting it following a destructive Palestinian protest.
The reopening follows several days of relative calm, as Egyptian and UN officials attempt to broker a long-term truce between Israel and Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli defence ministry unit that oversees the Erez crossing confirmed it had reopened on Thursday.
On September 5, the army said that hundreds of "rioters" had vandalised the Gaza side of the crossing, and that it would remain closed until the damage was repaired.
Israel has enforced an air, land and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip for more than a decade, but grants permission to a limited number of people to cross.
An average of around 1,000 Gazans cross through Erez each day, mostly those in need of medical care but also businesspeople, students and others, Israeli authorities say.
A second crossing with Israel, Kerem Shalom, is for goods only.
There have been months of tension along the border and several military-flare ups, but recent weeks have seen relative calm. Activists have held regular protests along Gaza's border with Israel since March 30 which have triggered frequent clashes with the army. At least 176 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israeli fire since the protests began. One Israeli soldier has been killed over the same period.
The protesters have been demanding the right of return to homes their families fled or were expelled from during the 1948 war that accompanied Israel's creation.
Gaza's only other link to the outside world is the Rafah crossing with Egypt. It was closed for years but has been largely open to restricted categories of Palestinians since mid-May.
Meanwhile, Israel security forces on Thursday dismantled several shacks built by Palestinian protesters near Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank that Israel has slated for demolition.
Reuters witnesses said Israeli forces arrived at the village before sunrise on Thursday and began taking down the newly built protest huts, without touching the Bedouin encampment, the fate of which has become a focus of Palestinian protests and international concern.
Israel's military liaison agency with the Palestinians, COGAT, said on Twitter that five "movable structures that were illegally transported & installed" in the area had been taken down.
The five new huts had been assembled this week by activists from several rights groups and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in support of the Bedouin community.
Khan al-Ahmar is beside an Israeli highway that runs through the West Bank from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea.
Israel's plan to demolish the village and relocate its 180 residents - Bedouins who scrape a living by raising sheep and goats - to a site 12 km (7 miles) away, has drawn criticism from Palestinians and some European states, who cite the impact on the community and prospects for peace.
Palestinians say the demolition is part of an Israeli push to create an arc of settlements that would effectively cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and which the Palestinians seek for an independent state.
Last week, Israel's Supreme Court rejected petitions to prevent the move, siding with the authorities who say the village was built without required permits. Palestinians say such documents are impossible to obtain.