Israel to Shut Gaza Border Crossings in Wake of Cross-border Projectile Fire

Authorities notify Palestinians of move; Rafah Crossing to Egypt remains closed.

A Palestinian worker walks next to a truck loaded with sacks of cement at the Kerem Shalom border crossing on its way from Israel to Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Oct. 14, 2014.AP

Israel has announced it will close the border crossings to the Gaza Strip on Sunday, after a projectile was fired from the coastal enclave toward the Eshkol Regional Council overnight Friday.

The defense establishment announced Saturday that the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings will be closed until further notice. In cases of humanitarian emergencies, entry from Gaza to Israel will be permitted via the Erez Crossing.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories has notified the Palestinians of the decision.

The Iron Dome anti-missile defense system identified a projectile being fired from the strip toward Israel overnight Friday. It was not immediately clear whether the projectile was a rocket or mortar shell. No rocket alarms were sounded nor was any damage reported.

"Overnight a rocket or mortar launched from Gaza struck southern Israel. No damage or injuries reported," Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said on Twitter.

Military forces searched for the debris of the projectile early Saturday, and launched an inquiry into who fired the projectile. There was no claim of responsibility from any armed faction in Gaza, dominated by the Islamist Hamas group.

Hours after the projectile struck harmlessly, there was no Israeli counter-strike, an apparent sign Israel was looking to avoid any escalation.

The incident marked the second time a projectile has been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel since the end of the 50-day Operation Protective Edge this summer.

Three other crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel - Nahal Oz, Karni and Sufa – remain not operational.

Meanwhile, the Rafah Crossing, Gaza's only non-Israeli passage to outside world, remains closed. Egypt's state TV announced that the crossing would be closed in the wake of an attack on its military in northern Sinai that killed at least 33 soldiers.

A senior Egyptian official said last Saturday that the strike, the deadliest against the army in decades, had the handiwork of Palestinian militants, stressing that the "only solution" to stop such assaults was to create a buffer zone between the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip.

In addition to closing the border crossing, Egypt declared a state of emergency and imposed a 5 P.M. to 7 A.M. curfew in the restive northern part of the peninsula.

It also postponed the indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas for a long-term cease-fire, saying the Egyptian-mediated talks could not resume yet, due to the security situation in the Gaza Strip and the closure of the Rafah Crossing.