Israel and Egypt keep Gaza Strip borders shut

Hamas committed to maintaining quiet, arrests five suspects in rocket attack, say security source.

Hamas political leader Musa Abu Marzouk (R) shakes hands with a Hamas militant as he visits the mourning tent of senior Hamas commander Mohammed Abu Shammala (seen in posters). (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas political leader Musa Abu Marzouk (R) shakes hands with a Hamas militant as he visits the mourning tent of senior Hamas commander Mohammed Abu Shammala (seen in posters).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings to Gaza will remain closed until the security situation allows their reopening, a Defense Ministry spokeswoman said on Sunday.
The shutting down of the border was not meant as a punitive measure, but was put in place because rocket fire such as that which took place on Friday night poses a mortal threat to people working at or passing through the crossings, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories spokeswoman said.
The COGAT spokeswoman added that emergency humanitarian goods would still be transferred through the crossings.
Sources within the Defense Ministry said Sunday that Hamas has arrested five suspects in the firing of the rocket that hit the Eshkol region on Friday night, and that it has denied that its operatives were responsible for the attack.
Hamas is committed to maintaining quiet on the border and finding those responsible for the rocket fire, the sources said.
Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar said that Israel’s decision to close the border crossings into the Gaza Strip was in violation of the cease-fire agreement, which was reached in Cairo last August.
“We won’t abide by the agreement unless the blockade is lifted,” Zahar told the Bethlehem- based Ma’an news agency.
Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzouk also condemned the Israeli decision. He too accused Israel of violating the truce agreement.
The Israeli decision was a “childish and irresponsible act,” Abu Marzouk said. “This is collective punishment that is being imposed on the Gaza Strip.”
Meanwhile, Hamas officials appealed on Sunday to the Egyptian authorities to reopen the Rafah border crossing, which was closed last week following a terrorist attack that killed 33 Egyptian soldiers in Sinai, warning that the continued blockade on the Gaza Strip was in violation of the Egyptian-engineered cease-fire between Hamas and Israel.
Eyad al-Bazam, spokesman for Hamas’s Interior Ministry, urged the Egyptians to reopen the Rafah crossing quickly.
He pointed out that the closure of the Rafah terminal was preventing Palestinians with humanitarian cases from leaving the Gaza Strip.
Security has been increased in northern Sinai as a curfew imposed after the deadly attack last month enters its ninth day, Egyptian state news agency MENA reported on Sunday.
Security personnel were deployed in great number in streets and residential areas.
Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim said that Egypt’s war on terrorism is not less important than the wars it fought against its enemies throughout its history, MENA reported.
The Arab League convened on Sunday for an emergency session at the request of Kuwait, and reaffirmed all past statements made regarding the uprooting of terrorism, stressing the necessity of supporting Egypt in its battle, which poses a threat to the security of the Arab world, the Kuwait News Agency reported.
The international organization also condemned the attack in Sinai last month that killed the security personnel.
Security forces continued anti-terrorism operations in Sinai and Apache helicopters attacked what officials said were terrorist bases, the online Egypt Independent newspaper reported.
Dozens of extremists were killed, residences stormed and suspects arrested, security officials said.
A military source told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the army informs authorities of which houses have tunnels underneath so as to deny their owners compensation for their demolition.
Operations would expand over the next days in Sinai, the source added.