Israel to Hamas: Two days of quiet needed for Gaza crossing to reopen

“The residents of Gaza must understand that as long as there are fires and flaming balloons, life will not return to normal on their side as well."

Liberman at Kerem Shalom, Credit: Tovah Lazaroff
Israel’s Air Force struck a Palestinian terrorist cell on Sunday night that had launched flaming kites from the northern Gaza Strip towards Israel an army spokesperson said.
The attack came on the second day of a fragile calm, in which Hamas temporarily halted its violent attacks against Israel as part of a cease-fire understanding with Egypt.
Earlier in the day, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman linked the reopening of the Kerem Shalom crossing to a cessation of Hamas violence.
Two days of absolute quiet – without any border violence, incendiary kites or rockets – are needed before the Gaza crossings will be reopened for anything but food and medicine, Liberman said on Sunday morning. Until then, the Israeli ban on fuel and gas, as well as on all commercial goods, will remain in place.
“The residents of Gaza must understand that as long as there are fires and flaming balloons, life will not return to normal on their side as well,” Liberman said. “Yesterday was the calmest day since maybe March 30. Therefore, my message to the people of Gaza is responsibility. If the situation will continue today and tomorrow as it was yesterday, then on Tuesday we will restore life at the Kerem Shalom crossing to normal. The key is quiet and calm, and zero flaming balloons and conflict by the fence.”
He added that the conditions also include a total cessation of rockets and mortars.
Liberman spoke during an early morning visit to the Kerem Shalom crossing, which is the main commercial passage for good entering and leaving the Gaza Strip.
He toured the largely empty open-air storage lots, which on a regular day would be stacked with goods awaiting transportation by truck into Gaza.
On Sunday, however, it was expected that only 140 truckloads of food and medicine would enter Gaza, compared with some 1,000 or 1,100 trucks that would have gone every day during peak traffic this year, according to Liberman.
There were very few vehicles on the road into the site on Sunday, which typically would have been lined with waiting trucks.
Liberman walked by the boxes of food at Kerem Shalom that included apples and bananas.
His visit came less than two days after Israel and Hamas appeared to be on the brink of a fourth war since the Islamic group seized control of Gaza in 2007. Israel attacked Hamas targets in Gaza on Friday after a Palestinian sniper killed an Israeli soldier at the border.
Egypt, with the help of the United Nations, brokered a fledgling understanding at the last minute, under which Hamas will halt the Gaza violence and Israel will lift the commercial and humanitarian restrictions it imposed earlier this month.
Liberman has now asked Hamas to show that it means by business by maintaining peace and quiet for two more days.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued another warning to Hamas on Sunday to keep the peace.
“We hit Hamas very hard over the weekend and – if it proves necessary – we will hit them seven- fold,” Netanyahu warned.
UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov is hoping to broker a larger rehabilitation plan for Gaza that will include the reconciliation of the rival Hamas and Fatah factions.
UN Humanitarian Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick warned that the lives of the 2,000,000 Gazans could be at stake if Israel does not allow fuel and gas to enter the Strip.
Gaza currently subsists on about four hours of electricity a day, and the fuel is needed to run generators.
Gaza hospitals, in particular, rely on that fuel.
“At least one hospital has been forced to shut down for a few hours, and services are being dramatically reduced at others,” McGoldrick said. “Given ongoing blackouts of about 20 hours a day, if fuel does not come in immediately, people’s lives will be at stake, with the most vulnerable patients – like cardiac patients, those on dialysis, and newborns in intensive care – at highest risk.”
Those at greatest risk, he said, are the more than 2,000 patients in Gaza’s hospitals, including premature babies in incubators.
“Israel must let fuel and other essential supplies in, and donors must mobilize resources to ensure that critical facilities receive the fuel they need, McGoldrick said.