Israel Expected to Open Border Crossings and Permit Fishing Sunday After 'Restrained' Gaza Protests

Final decision to be made Sunday morning, according to developments overnight

Palestinian women protesters during a demonstration marking the first anniversary of the "March of Return" protests, near the border with Israel east of Gaza City, March 30, 2019.

>> UPDATE: Five rockets fired at southern Israel on Saturday night

Israel intends to open border crossings in the Gaza Strip on Sunday and once again permit fishing opposite the Gaza shoreline, after successful efforts by Hamas to restrain demonstrations at the border, which ended Saturday afternoon with relatively little violence.

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The final decision will be made early Sunday morning, if quiet is maintained overnight.

The Israel Defense Forces, on government orders, had completely closed the crossings and prohibited fishing opposite the Gaza shoreline in response to the firing of a rocket at the Sharon region of central Israel early last week.

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The intent is to open the Kerem Shalom crossing for merchandise and the Erez crossing for people with exit permits and to allow fishing in the area where it was previously allowed.

If quiet is maintained, other restrictions are to be more extensively eased at a later time, in keeping with the understandings reached with Egypt.

An estimated 40,000 Palestinian protested Saturday on the fence separating Israel from the coastal enclave. 

Two 17-year-old demonstrators died after being shot by live Israeli fire and more than 300 were wounded.

The protest marked the one-year anniversary of the weekly weekend demonstrations.

Israeli army spokesman Brig. Gen Ronen Manelis said that the protest was exceptionally restrained: "The restraint Hamas exercised today was such that we hadn't seen over the past year.There were hundreds of Hamas personnel who wore orange vests and prevented demonstrators from reaching the [border] fence." 

An Egyptian diplomatic delegation has been shuttling between Israel and Gaza over the past weeks, mediating between Israel and Hamas.

In a press conference after a meeting between the Egyptians and the Higher National Committee for Breaking the Siege in Gaza, the committee's chairman – a member of Islamic Jihad – urged people who planned to protest on Saturday to demonstrate nonviolently, and that Israel would be put to the test regarding its true willingness to ease the blockade on Gaza.