JERUSALEM: Israel will reopen Gaza’s main commercial crossing and expand its fishing zone on Tuesday if a lull in cross-border tensions holds after a truce with the enclave’s dominant Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, the Israeli defence minister said.
Israel shut the Kerem Shalom border terminal and reduced the fishing zone to 11 km (6 miles) from 17 km (9 miles) on July 9 in response to fire-starting kites and helium balloons flown over by Palestinians as part of weeks of border protests.
Hostilities escalated last week, with Palestinian gunfire killing an Israeli soldier and Israel’s military killing three Hamas fighters and a fourth Palestinian. The violence subsided on Saturday after Egypt and the United Nations mediated a truce.
“We saw, yesterday, what might have been the calmest day since March 30,” Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters on Sunday.
In weekly Gaza protests since then, at least 140 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army in what it called border protection.
“If today and tomorrow see a continuation of the situation as it was yesterday, then on Tuesday we will resume routine activity here at Kerem Shalom (border terminal) and return the fishing zone to the ranges previously in place.”
Kerem Shalom is the main export-import conduit for the 2 million Palestinians of Gaza, which also borders Egypt.
During the terminal’s closure, humanitarian aid was still allowed through Lieberman said traffic slowed to about 140 trucks a day from some 1,000 to 1,100 trucks per day.