Israel reopens people crossing with Gaza Strip

Israel reopens people crossing with Gaza Strip
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Palestinian protesters run away from tear gas canisters fired by Isreali forces during demonstrations at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on August 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB

Jerusalem: Israel reopened its only crossing for people with the Gaza Strip on Monday, a week after shutting it over violence along the border with the Palestinian enclave. The reopening, following days of relative calm, comes as Egypt holds talks with Palestinian officials as part of efforts to reach a long-term truce with Israel.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli defence ministry unit that oversees the Erez crossing confirmed it had opened as planned on Monday morning. On Sunday night, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the crossing was being reopened due to “calm that has been maintained over the past week.”

Israel closed the crossing except to humanitarian cases on August 19, after another round of protests and clashes on the border with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

It has enforced an air, land and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip for more than a decade, but grants permission to a limited number of people to cross for various reasons.

An average of around 1,000 Gazans cross through Erez each day, mostly those in need of medical care but also businesspeople, students and others, Israeli authorities say.

A second crossing with Israel, Kerem Shalom, is for goods.

There have been months of tension along the border and several military-flare ups, but recent weeks have seen relative calm.

Egyptian and United Nations officials have been mediating indirect talks on a long-term truce between Israel and Islamist movement Hamas, which have fought three wars since 2008.

Egyptian officials have held talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah this week in a renewed bid to reconcile the movement with Hamas.

The two factions have been deeply divided for more than a decade and Abbas is opposed to any truce with Israel that bypasses his Palestinian Authority, based in the occupied West Bank.

Mass protests and clashes erupted on the Gaza border on March 30 and have continued at varying levels since.

At least 172 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israeli fire since the protests began. One Israeli soldier has been killed during that time.

Gaza’s only other border is with Egypt, but the Rafah crossing with the enclave had largely been kept closed in recent years. Cairo opened it in mid-May and it has mostly remained so since.