Israel Closes Crossing Point Into Gaza, Halting Imports and Exports

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad visits the offices of al Watan TV after a pre-dawn IDF raid in Ramallah on Wednesday. The computer screen on the right shows a soldier during the raid

The prime minister cited recent attacks launched from Gaza into Israel as the reason for closing imports and exports through the Kerem Shalom border crossing.

Only a day earlier, Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi, who has been working behind the scenes to ease tensions in Gaza, suggested in an interview that Palestinians would stop protests and sending incendiary kites if Israel were to ease the siege and allow 5,000 Palestinians from Gaza to obtain work permits for Israel.

The spokesman went on to defend what he described as Israel's "naval cordon" on Gaza, calling it "necessary and legal... for maintaining Israel's security and its maritime borders". The other passengers were said to be students.

Since March, Palestinians in Gaza have been taking part in protests near the so called buffer zone. Israel said some humanitarian goods would still be allowed through the terminal.

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The devices have sparked 750 fires in southern Israel, burning more than 2,600 hectares (6,400 acres) of forest and farmland and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage, Israeli officials say.

"In agreement with the defense minister, we will act with a heavy hand against the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip", Netanyahu said.

Arabic-language spokesman for the Israeli army, Avichay Adraee, took to social media to reveal that the measures also included reducing Gaza's designated fishing zone from nine to six nautical miles off the coast.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesperson for the terror group Hamas, on Monday issued a statement saying "Benjamin Netanyahu's approval of additional measures imposed on the Gaza Strip to further tighten the siege and prevent the entry of goods into the already crippled coastal enclave is a new crime against humanity added to the record of the Israeli occupation against the Palestinian people".

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Israel's military said the prime minister had ordered the closure of Kerem Shalom on Monday "in light of the ongoing arson terror and additional terror attempts, led by the Hamas terror organization".

March organisers have rejected such allegations, stating that while Hamas has participated in the demonstrations like other Palestinian political factions, the group was not playing a leading role in the protests. They said the new "sanctions" against the strip are aimed at punishing Hamas for the use of flaming kites in cross-border attacks.

Activists escort a boat carrying Palestinians injured during clashes along the Gaza security fence as it tries to break through Israel's naval blockade from the Gaza City harbor on July 10, 2018.

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