Defense Ministry: Gaza closure not working

Defense Ministry says crossings will remain shut until end of week regardless of IDF assessment.

karni 248 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
karni 248
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel's decision to keep the crossings into Gaza closed will remain in effect until the end of the week, defense officials said Wednesday, despite an official IDF assessment submitted to Defense Minister Ehud Barak that the restriction is not having an effect on Hamas. The crossings between Israel and Gaza have been closed for almost two weeks as part of Israel's response to the continued rocket attacks against the western Negev. On Wednesday, two Kassam rockets landed south of Ashkelon without causing any injuries or damage. On Tuesday, three rockets slammed into fields in the Negev. Officials in Barak's office said Wednesday that the closure imposed on the crossings would remain in effect even though its effectiveness was minimal. "We cannot allow the Palestinians to fire rockets into our cities without a response," an official explained. According to the IDF assessments which were presented to Barak, Hamas continues to retain full control over the Gaza Strip despite the closure of the crossings and is succeeding in bringing in almost all of the supplies the Palestinian people require via the hundreds of tunnels it operates under the Philadelphi Corridor. The one commodity that Hamas can't get from Egypt is the diesel fuel needed to operate the Gaza power plant. While Israel has stopped supplying the fuel, it does continue to provide electricity to the Gaza Strip. The IDF is also allowing a minimal flow of humanitarian supplies into Gaza. On Monday, for example, over 30 trucks were allowed to transfer basic food and medical supplies. The closing of the crossings is also preventing foreign journalists from entering Gaza. On Tuesday, the Foreign Press Association in Israel issued an open letter to the Israeli media in which it claimed that the closure was preventing the world's media from being able to "accurately report on events inside Gaza at this critical time." In response to a New York Times report on the media ban on Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry urged Barak's office to lift the ban and allow foreign reporters to enter Gaza. An official in Barak's office said that despite the request, the ban would likely remain in effect for several more days. "We are only obligated to open the crossings for humanitarian purposes," the official said. "Journalists entering Gaza does not meet that criteria." Meanwhile, Brig.-Gen. Eyal Eisenberg took over the Gaza command on Wednesday, replacing Brig.-Gen. Moshe Tamir, who has commanded the division for two years. The handover was to have taken place last week but was put off in the wake of the outbreak of violence that threatened the June truce between Israel and Hamas. At least 17 Hamas gunmen have been killed, and about 150 rockets and mortars fired at Israel over the past two weeks, the IDF said. The June 19 cease-fire is due to expire next month.