The Israeli occupation authorities have extended for the fifth week in a row their ban on visits by the families of prisoners from the Gaza Strip being held in Israel's prisons. The pretext is so-called Israeli Independence Day, which led to the closure of the two border crossings between the occupying state and the Gaza Strip at Karam Abu Salam (Kerem Shalom) and Beit Hanoun (Erez).
The International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza said that the Israelis informed its staff about the ban on visits which were scheduled to take place on Monday The prisoners' relatives were frustrated after being prepared for the visit after the Israelis had blocked them in a series of punitive measures taken against Gaza after rockets were fired towards Israeli settlements.
The father of one of the prisoners said that he starts preparing for each visit at dawn; they are monitored closely by the Israelis from the minute they approach Beit Hanoun. Each visit lasts for just half an hour, he added.
"I haven't met my son face to face but I spoke with him through a monitored phone link," he said. "And the Israelis stop us from passing over clothes or food, but at least I made sure that he is alive."
Israel started to allow families from Gaza to visit their sons and brothers in its jails after a six-year hiatus as part of an Egypt-sponsored agreement with the Hamas government last May. There are 470 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip in Israeli prisons.
In a related issue, the Israelis are to keep the Karam Abu Salam border crossing in southern Gaza closed, preventing the entry of aid and goods into the Strip. It will be reopened on Wednesday.
Off the Gaza coast, Israeli gunboats fired on Palestinian fishermen despite them being within the restricted fishing zone, as gunfire was also directed at farmers working on their land in the eastern sector of Gaza's middle governorate. No injuries were reported.