A Palestinian man rides on a truck carrying fruits as it arrives at Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip (July 10, 2018).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The United Nations has warned Israel that its decision to halt the flow of commercial goods into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing could escalate its conflict with Hamas.
“Everyone must step back from the trajectory of confrontation and escalation,” UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said on Tuesday.
He spoke in response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to issue the harshest restrictions on Gaza’s main commercial crossing since the 2014 war with Hamas.
As of Tuesday morning, only humanitarian supplies such as food, medicine, fuel and animal feed can enter the Hamas-ruled Strip until further notice.
Israel’s decision to impose severe economic sanctions on Gaza comes four months after Hamas and Islamic terrorists in Gaza launched flaming kites into southern Israel that have scorched thousands of acres along the southern border. Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish National Fund reported 19 fires Tuesday as a result of the kites.
Fires in Kibbutz Be'eri from Gaza kite terror, June 9, 2018 (Dani Ben Dovid, Forreseter KKL)
The suspension of commercial goods also comes in the midst of a major US push to put in place a humanitarian plan that would ease life for the two million Palestinians in Gaza, who are also suffering from Palestinian economic sanctions and living on four hours of fuel a day.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told reporters on the Golan, “I hope that Hamas got the message and will stop the arson, [flaming] balloons, and the provocations.”
“What happens at Kerem Shalom is food and medicine, that’s all... The rest of the goods will not pass... the decision was made yesterday; only from today do we start implementing it... I hope it is a message that was received by Hamas leaders and we see an immediate cessation of all the arson.”
Mladenov said that both Hamas and Israel had to take a step back from the brink.
“I am concerned by the consequences of Israel’s decision to temporarily suspend imports and exports with the exception of basic humanitarian supplies through the Kerem Shalom crossing,” Mladenov said on Tuesday. “Humanitarian assistance is no substitute for commerce and trade. I urge the authorities to reverse this decision.”
“Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza should also do their part by maintaining calm, stopping incendiary kites and preventing other provocations,” he added.
He has also been working on a humanitarian plan for Gaza that includes reuniting Fatah and Hamas.
“The United Nations is continuing its engagement with Israeli and Palestinian counterparts, as well as regional and international partners, to reduce tensions, support intra-Palestinian reconciliation and resolve all humanitarian challenges. This latest development must not divert us from this urgent course of action,” Mladenov explained.
Israel has long imposed an aerial and naval blockade on Gaza. In addition, Gaza lacks a seaport large enough for cargo ships to dock. All supplies to Gaza, commercial and otherwise, must therefore enter by land.
There are three crossings into Gaza – two controlled by Israel and one by Egypt. The Israeli-Gaza crossings are at Erez for pedestrians and Kerem Shalom for goods and fuel.
The Egyptian crossing is at Rafah, but it is often closed and lacks the infrastructure that would allow it to be a main commercial crossing.
Egypt has recently opened the Rafah crossing and some commercial goods have entered the Strip through that crossing