Israel Reopens Gaza Commercial Crossing as Deal With Hamas Nears

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Kerem Shalom crossing in July.
Kerem Shalom crossing in July.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkowitz

Israel reopened the Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza a month after the government announced its closure, and Gaza's fishing area was extended to nine nautical miles from six nautical miles from the shore.

The security cabinet will convene Wednesday for further discussion on the agreement being reached between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, brokered by the United Nations and Egypt.

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Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that if the calm on the Gaza border is maintained throughout the night, Kerem Shalom will open Wednesday morning. The commercial crossing closure was announced back in July when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it would close over a wave of airborne firebombs being sent from Gaza to Israel.

"In agreement with the defense minister, we will act with a heavy hand against the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip," Netanyahu said, adding  "As for Gaza, I've already told you that I have no intention to prematurely announce all of the steps we are taking," the prime minister told Likud lawmakers. "There will be other steps which I won't detail."

>> UN, Egypt struggling to preserve Hamas cease-fire as Israel denies deal exists | Palestinian protesters in Gaza: Don’t wound us – kill us | Analysis

Netanyahu met secretly with met secretly with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Sissi back in May to discuss the Gaza Strip, Israel's Channel 10 news reported Monday evening. According to the report, which was sourced to senior American officials, Netanyahu flew to Egypt on May 22 with a handful of advisers. He spent a few hours there and returned to Israel that same night. The trip was kept secret, and even ministers belonging to the diplomatic-security cabinet weren’t informed.

Senior U.S. officials said the two discussed the outline of a cease-fire, easing the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the territory and rehabilitating its infrastructure. UN envoy Nikolay Mladenov has been working on a similar plan over the past few months.

Last week, more than 200 rockets were fired at Israel and the IDF attacked some 150 targets in Gaza. Foreign sources reported that a cease-fire was reached between Israel and Hamas, brokered by Egypt and the UN envoy.

Israel denied the report, but has been upheld between both parties since then. On Monday, Lieberman visited the military's Gaza Division where he said that when it comes to the next round of violence between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the question "is not if, but when."

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