Israel reopens Gaza commercial crossing after month-long closure

Israel reopened the Karam Abu Salem border crossing, the primary passageway that transfers necessities to residents of the besieged Gaza Strip.

The lifting of the closure on Wednesday will allow the flow of vital products such as cooking gas, wheat, and flour into Gaza – home to nearly two million people. Clothing and construction materials such as plastic can also now be transferred.

The crossing, which would usually be sealed off during official Israeli holidays and on weekends, also aids in the delivery of foreign aid to Gaza, an official responsible for coordinating the movement of cargo through the border previously told Al Jazeera.

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Israel sealed off the border last month, saying it was in retaliation over Palestinians setting fire to Israeli land. After partially lifting the closure, Israel blocked the supply of fuel into Gaza two weeks ago.

Expanded fishing 

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday if “calm” near the Israeli fence was maintained, the border would reopen, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

Israel will also expand the fishing zone that it enforces in the waters off the Gaza Strip from six nautical miles to nine. Expansions occasionally occur and usually last for only three months at a time with the objective of boosting Gaza’s economy, which is heavily reliant on the fishing sector.

Although the expansion allows the Gaza Strip’s 4,000 registered fishermen to reach a wider array of fish, the nine-mile nautical border is still not enough to serve some 1,000 boats, according to Nizar Ayash, head of Gaza’s fishermen’s union.

UN-brokered truce

The developments follow a series Israeli air attacks and artillery shelling that killed three Palestinians, including a pregnant woman and her 18-month-old child, in Gaza last week.

Israel launched more than 140 attacks after about 150 rockets were fired from the coastal enclave, injuring at least six people in Israel.

Since, the United Nations and Egypt secured a ceasefire deal between Hamas, the group that governs the Strip, and Israel in the hope of achieving a lasting truce.

Jamal al-Khoudary, a Palestinian parliamentarian and the head of the Popular Committee to End Gaza’s Siege, said the decision to reopen the commercial crossing wasn’t considered a “lifting of the siege”.

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Rather, he said, it only brought back the situation as it was prior to July 10, when Israel sealed off the border in retaliation for incendiary kites and balloons sent into Israel to start fires.

So far, flaming objects have caused $2.5m in damage to farmland, according to Israel’s government.

Palestinians have been protesting since March 30 east of the Gaza Strip, calling for their right of return. More than 164 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and 18,000 more wounded.

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