Israel closes crossing to Gaza workers after new rocket attacks

Israel closes crossing to Gaza workers after new rocket attacks
2 min read
Israel had retaliated against those attacks with airstrikes but has shifted its response this time to the painful economic measure of closing Erez.
The Erez crossing, known as Beit Hanoun in Arabic, is the only land crossing for movement between the besieged Gaza Strip and Israel [Getty]

Israel said it will close its only crossing from the besieged Gaza Strip for workers on Sunday in response to overnight rockets fired from the besieged enclave.

The rocket attacks on Friday night and Saturday morning followed days of Israeli aggression against Palestinians at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound and a month of deadly violence.

The unrest- which comes as the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan overlaps with the Jewish festival of Passover- has sparked international fears of conflict, one year after similar violence led to an 11-day long Israeli military aggression on Gaza, killing more than 200 Palestinians, including dozens of children.

"Following the rockets fired toward Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip last night, it was decided that crossings into Israel for Gazan merchants and workers through the Erez Crossing will not be permitted this upcoming Sunday," COGAT, a unit of the Israeli defence ministry responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, said in a statement on Saturday.

Two rockets were allegedly fired from Gaza at southern Israel on Friday night, one of them hitting the territory and the other falling short and striking near a residential building in northern Gaza, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.

A third rocket was fired at Israel on Saturday morning, according to the army, with no air raid sirens activated for any of the launches.

They followed rocket attacks on Wednesday and Thursday and came as Israeli police attacked Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa mosque, leaving scores of Palestinians injured.

Perspectives

Israel had retaliated against those attacks with airstrikes but has shifted its response this time to the painful economic measure of closing Erez, implying that further rockets would extend the penalty.

"The re-opening of the crossing will be decided in accordance with a security situational assessment," COGAT added in its statement.

'Incitement'

More than 200 Palestinians, have been injured in Israeli raids in and around Al-Aqsa in the past week.

Palestinians have expressed outrage at massive Israeli police deployment and repeated storming by Jewish extremists to the holy site.

Early on Friday, the Palestinian Red Crescent said 57 people were wounded after police stormed the compound in Israeli-controlled East Jerusalem's Old City, where 14 Palestinians were taken to hospital, at least one of them in a serious condition.

The escalating unrest prompted concern at the United Nations, which on Thursday demanded a probe into the Israeli police actions.

"The use of force by Israeli police resulting in widespread injuries among worshippers and staff in and around the Al-Aqsa mosque compound must be promptly, impartially, independently and transparently investigated," said Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.