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Israel closes only people crossing with Gaza after protest Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Israel closes only people crossing with Gaza after protest

Israel shot at protesters during the demonstrations at the crossing [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 September, 2018

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The sole crossing for those living in the blockaded Gaza Strip was closed by the Israeli army on Wednesday, after a protest broke out the previous day.

The Israeli army said it was closing its sole crossing for people with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, following a violent demonstration the previous day, just 10 days after it reopened it.

"Yesterday, a violent riot was instigated in the area of the Erez crossing, with the participation of hundreds of Palestinian rioters," the army said in a statement.

"Subsequently, it was decided to close the Erez crossing until the damage caused by the rioters will be repaired."

The Palestinians protesters were demonstrating against a US announcement on Friday that it would cease all funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) which helps some three million needy refugees.

Washington, which until last year was by far the biggest contributor to the UNRWA, had already plunged the nearly 70-year-old agency into financial crisis in January with its announcement of a $300 million funding freeze.

In Gaza, most children attend UNRWA-run schools whose funding beyond the end of this month is now in doubt, along with that of the agency's network of clinics and food distribution centres.

Israel assured the crossing would remain open for "individually approved humanitarian cases".

The Israeli army used tear gas and live ammunition to push back the protesters. Five Palestinians suffered gunshot wounds during demonstrations against the US decision to cut vital US funding from the organisation which provides assistance to some 5 million Palestinian refugees across the region.

On Tuesday, the UK said it would respond by increasing its funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees by £7m, noting it does not share the same view on the issue with the US president.

"We don't agree with the American administration's decision on this issue . . . We'll be talking to other donors as well to see if we can make up the gap in funding to UNRWA,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Tuesday.

Israel reopened Erez on August 27 after an 11-day closure following previous clashes, as part of its policy of easing its decade-long air, land and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip when calm is maintained.

The sole goods crossing between Israel and Gaza, Kerem Shalom, remains open.

There have been months of tension along the border and several military flare-ups, but recent weeks have seen relative calm.

Egyptian and United Nations officials have been mediating indirect negotiations on a long-term truce between Israel and Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas, who have fought three wars since 2008.

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