Hamas Condemns Israel’s Closure of Vital Gaza Commercial Border

Karam Abu Salem border crossing. (Photo: File)

The Palestinian group Hamas has condemned an Israeli decision to seal off the Karam Abu Salem commercial border crossing, the primary passageway that transfers necessities to residents of the besieged Gaza Strip.

The group, which governs the enclave, described Monday’s measure as a “crime against the people of Gaza”, blaming the international community’s prolonged silence that encourages Israel’s blockade on Gaza.

Earlier on Monday, Israel said it will be closing off the Karam Abu Salem border crossing, saying it was in retaliation over Palestinians setting fire to Israeli land.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the decision to shut down the border was taken in coordination with the country’s defense minister.

The move, which will come into effect on Tuesday, will only allow for the transfer of humanitarian needs such as cooking gas as well as wheat and flour into Gaza, an official responsible for coordinating the movement of cargo through the border confirmed to Al Jazeera from Gaza.

The crossing, which would usually be sealed off during official Israeli holidays and on weekends, also aided in the delivery of foreign aid to Gaza.

In recent weeks, Palestinians in Gaza have been protesting against the naval, aerial and land blockade imposed by Israel and neighboring Egypt since 2006.

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Some have used flaming objects attached to kites to set fire to agricultural land just over the fence. So far, they have caused $2.5m in damage to farmland, according to Israel’s government.

Israel had been using drones to intercept the kites, but Palestinians have had some success in bringing the drones down.

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In previous retaliatory measures, Israel struck targets belonging to Hamas, blaming the group for the launching of the kites.

The closure of the Karam Abu Salem border crossing will also affect Gaza’s exports, further straining an already crippled economy brought to its knees by the 12-year blockade.

Netanyahu also warned in a series of posts on Twitter that “additional steps” will be taken to address the “Hamas regime … immediately.”

Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch’s Israel-Palestine director, said the economic measure by Israel was an act of “collective punishment”.

He told Al Jazeera:

“What’s needed is pressure on the international community. […] Israel must end its long and cruel closure of Gaza.”

Since March 30, Palestinians in Gaza have also been protesting for Palestinians’ right to return to the homes from which they were expelled from in 1948.

Nearly 140  people have been killed by Israeli gunfire during the popular demonstrations – dubbed the Great March of Return – that have been taking place along the fence separating Gaza from Israel.

(AJE, PC, Social Media)

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