Israeli Defense Minister: If Gaza Remains Quiet, Border Crossing to Reopen Wednesday Morning

Avigdor Lieberman makes statement following a situation assessment with the army's chief of staff and other officials in the defense establishment ■ Cabinet to discuss Wednesday a Gazal deal mediated by Egypt and the UN

Palestinians wait to fill their motorcycle with fuel after Israel stopped the transfer of fuel and cooking gas into Gaza, at a petrol station in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, July 17, 2018.
REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that if the calm on the Gaza border is maintained throughout the night, the Kerem Shalom crossing will open Wednesday at 9 A.M. 

Lieberman spoke at the end of a security assessment with the IDF chief of staff, the head of the National Security Council, a Shin Bet representative, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and other senior officials.

Lieberman also announced that in addition to opening the Kerem Shalom border crossing, Israel will extend the fishing area back to 9 miles from the shore.

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The defense minister further added that the potential opening of the crossing comes after three days of quiet and is intended to signal to the Gazan population that maintaining the peace is primarily in their interest.

File photo, a truck parks next to a security barrier inside the Kerem Shalom border crossing terminal between Israel and Gaza Strip January 16, 2018.
REUTERS/Amir Cohen

The cabinet is slated to covene Wednesday to discuss a potential deal with Hamas, mediated by Egypt and the UN. 

On July 9, Israel closed the Kerem Shalom border crossing over the airborne firebombs being sent into Israel in prior weeks. In early August, Lieberman tightened the restrictions and ordered fuel and gas be banned as well from entering the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom.

Kerem Shalom is the only crossing for goods into the Gaza Strip. There are two other crossings whose use is limited. The Erez crossing is used for people only. The Rafah crossing, on the border with Egypt, opens from time to time to allow the passage of goods and construction materials.

At the time, the IDF said that the crossing would be shut to all goods but humanitarian supplies such as food and medicine, and that such supplies would be allowed into Gaza only on the basis of case-by-case approval by the government's coordinator for the terroritories. The IDF also limited fishing to six nautical miles. 

On Thursday, six human rights organizations asked the High Court of Justice to overturn the restrictions Israel imposed on the movement of goods and order fuel to be allowed into the territory immediately.

From 2007 to 2017, Gazans were completely barred from exporting. When Israel finally permitted a partial resumption of exports, under pressure from several European countries and the World Bank, Gaza’s economy rebounded a bit. From the start of the year to the beginning of July, Gaza exported some $11 million worth of agricultural produce.

But the ban on exports which began last month created huge surpluses, which sent produce prices in Gaza plunging and caused enormous losses for farmers, who were forced to destroy some of their produce. Moreover, the fact that raw materials can no longer enter the territory is preventing farmers from readying the ground for the next growing season.

Gaza’s economy is almost entirely dependent on Kerem Shalom, so every restriction Israel imposes on the transport of goods through that crossing directly and immediately worsens the already dire humanitarian situation of Gaza’s civilian population.

168 Palestinian protesters have been killed in clashes along the Gaza border since the end of March, when the weekly "March of Return" protests began, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Following an escalation in hostilities between Israel and Gaza beginning on Wednesday, a foreign diplomat told Haaretz that Israel and Hamas reached a cease-fire late Thursday. According to the diplomat, the cease-fire is not part of a wider agreement being negotiated between the two parties. The broader arrangement between the Palestinians and Israel would include prisoner exchanges, including the remains of IDF soldiers in return for promoting humanitarian projects in Gaza, with funding by the international community, which would depend on intra-Palestinian reconciiation.