Published: Wed, July 18, 2018
Worldwide | By Sean Reid

Rights groups urge halt to 'collective punishment' at Gaza goods crossing

Rights groups urge halt to 'collective punishment' at Gaza goods crossing

"In light of the continued terror efforts of Hamas, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has decided, after consulting with the chief of [military] staff, to close Kerem Shalom for the passage of fuel and gas until Sunday", a statement said.

Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif Kanou said that the decision reflects Israel's "bad intention" and plan to "commit more crimes against the Palestinians".

Since May protests began along the Gaza buffer zone to end the blockade, at least 139 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, according to the Gaza health ministry.

While the groups acknowledged that the damage incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza have caused Israeli fields and farmland was "severe", they said the Israeli response "cannot be to deliberately harm innocent civilians".

Israel also chose to reduce the Gaza fishing zone from six to just three nautical miles.

Israel carried out air strikes partially in response to the months of fires started by the kite firebombs, but also over continuing protests and clashes along the Gaza border.

Two Palestinian teenagers were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, while four Israelis were wounded from a rocket that landed on a home in Sderot.

The steps come as the United Nations and Egypt push for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and as Israel prepares to go to war - if necessary - to prevent Hamas and the Islamic Jihad from launching rockets and incendiary devices into southern Israel.

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Israel and Egypt imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Gaza when Hamas reinforced its power over the territory in 2007 by ousting its rivals, a year after winning legislative elections.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan warned that "we are seeing an obvious trend" and that Hamas operatives "are constantly increasing their kites' range and they are using ‎other airborne devices" which "may even reach Judea ‎and Samaria", also known as the West Bank.

Israel pounded Hamas targets on Saturday in its most massive bombardment since the 2014 war, while militants fired dozens of rockets toward Israel that halted daily life in the area.

Kanou called on the worldwide community to "break its silence towards Israeli crimes against humanity".

"I heard it being said that Israel has agreed to a ceasefire that would allow the continuation of terrorism by incendiary kites and balloons; this is incorrect".

The European Union also criticized the restrictions, saying it "expects Israel to reverse these decisions" which risked "further aggravating the already dire economic situation in Gaza".

Hamas has denounced Israel's latest punitive measure.

The weekend's violence came after months of near-weekly border demonstrations aimed in part to protest the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza.

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