Israel today reopened the Kerem Shalom (Karm Abu Salem) commercial crossing with Gaza for the first time since 17 July.
The decision was announced this morning by Israel’s Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, and was made in conjunction with the Israel army. Lieberman said yesterday that he would reopen the crossing, which has been completely closed since 17 July, if quiet were maintained in thebesiegedGaza Strip. Hundreds of trucks of goods are expected to pass through the crossing over the course of the day, the Times of Israelreported.
The decision to reopen the Kerem Shalom crossing will also see the restrictions imposed on Gaza’s fishing area reduced, with the area re-extended to nine nautical miles from the six imposed since July.
Lieberman subsequently issued a message to the residents of Gaza, saying “calm pays off and violence does not – the Gaza residents have something to gain when Israeli citizens enjoy quiet and security, and something to lose when this quiet is broken,” Ynetreported. Israel’s Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, lambasted the reopening of the crossing, saying that “Lieberman’s gestures to Hamas are a mistake,” according to the Times of Israel.
Israel closedthe Kerem Shalom crossing completely on 17 July. As the only commercial crossing in and out of the besieged Strip, Kerem Shalom was the only route for construction materials, food and energy resources to be imported into Gaza. Only a few days after the route was closed, gas distribution companies in Gaza announcedthat they had run out of cooking gas reserves.
The closure of the crossing has also brought about a collapse of Gaza’s industrial and commercial sectors, with head of the Popular Committee Against the Siege, MP Jamal Al-Khodari, sayingthat “the closure reduced the production capacity of Gaza factories by 60 per cent over the last two weeks due to the shortage of crude materials.” Yesterday, 20 truckloads of construction materials were allowedto pass through the crossing in what was seen as the first sign that Israel intended to reassess its position.
Israel has sought to justify its closure of the crossing by pointing to the increased tensions between it and the Gaza Strip. Against the backdrop of the Great March of Return, weekly protestshave been continuing near the fence which surrounds the enclave. Israel has responded with a heavy hand, conducting air strikes that have destroyed cultural centresand left many Gazans dead, includinga pregnant mother and her 18-month-old daughter.
Israel has imposed a brutal siege on Gaza since 2007, cutting off access to the Strip by land, air and sea. The closure of commercial and pedestrian crossings has been used as a tactic to tightenthe siege and strangle the enclave economically, after Hamas was democratically elected to lead the Strip in the last Palestinian elections.