Israel Accuses Hamas of Keeping Gaza Crossing Shut

The Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and Gaza has been closed since Thursday, despite Israel's decision to reopen on Sunday; Israeli officials say Hamas trying to wrest control of Palestinian side from the PA.

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Israel decided to reopen the Kerem Shalom crossing with the Gaza Strip on Monday, but as 65 trucks pulled up to the Israeli side of the border, the Palestinian contractor who runs the other side was nowhere to be found.

According to a security official, Hamas instructed the contractor that his services would no longer be needed and that it planned to "take over" management of the crossing.

The Kerem Shalom border crossing has been closed since last Thursday. Israel's defense establishment closed it after a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip exploded south of Ashkelon and decided to keep it closed after another incident last Friday, in which a bullet struck the windshield of a jeep belonging to Col. Ofer Winter, the commander of the northern brigade in the Gaza Strip.

Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, coordinator of government activities in the territories, on Monday spoke with high-ranking Palestinian Authority officials to brief them on what was happening at the Kerem Shalom crossing. Replacing the contractor on the Gaza side violates the security status quo that has allowed the Kerem Shalom border crossing to operate, according to officials coordinating government activities in the territories.

Sources at the border crossing said that the company meant to accept goods on the Palestinian side, which used to be run by a Fatah contractor, is now affiliated with Hamas. Defense establishment officials are considering how to proceed if Hamas officials take charge of the Palestinian side of the crossing. For now, they say, the crossing remains closed and goods are not being transferred to the Palestinian side.

The contractor’s failure to show up stems from Hamas' attempts to replace the Palestinian Authority's franchisee with one of their own, in an attempt to gain control of operations at the crossing and increase its profits over than those of the PA, said a spokesman for the coordinator of government activities in the territories.

"This decision by Hamas violates the security status quo and threatens the continued operation of the crossing, as well as the security arrangements," the spokesperson said.

In his conversation with the PA officials this morning, Dangot said Israel would be willing to transfer the 65 truckloads of goods to Gaza if the Palestinian Authority contractor returned to work.

Palestinians walk past trucks loaded with gravel at the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip, December 30, 2012Credit: Reuters
A member of Hamas security forces checks a truck loaded with gravel at the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip, December 30, 2012.Credit: Reuters

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