State to HCJ: PA to blame for Karni closures [pg. 2]

The Palestinians have only themselves to blame for the fact that Israel shuts down the Karni crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel as often as it does and that, as a result, the local civilian population suffers, the state told the High Court of Justice on Wednesday. The statement came in response to a petition submitted by the Gaza-based Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and Gisha, the Center for the Legal Protection of Freedom of Movement. The petitioners have demanded that the crossing be opened "for regular, sufficient and predictable hours." The hearing is due to be held on Thursday. The state issued its response on the same day that Palestinian terrorists tried to drive a car bomb into the Karni crossing and, after it exploded, send in terrorists to open fire on Israelis working there. The attack was foiled by Palestinian policemen. "The responsibility for the economic situation in Gaza falls on the shoulders of the Palestinian Authority," the state's representative, attorney Aner Helman, wrote in his response to the petition. "Instead of trying to improve the lives of the residents ever since they became its responsibility, the PA does not prevent the terrorist threats aimed at the crossing and, as a result of which, Israeli is forced to close it from time to time." The petitioners charged that since January 15, the Karni crossing has been closed except for brief periods in which limited passage was allowed. The state agreed that it has been closed down more days than it has been open. The state also charged that the PA has refused Israel's offer to open the Kerem Shalom crossing to trucks entering the Gaza Strip from Israel. There are four crossing points linking the Gaza Strip to Israel and another one, at Rafah, linking Gaza with Egypt. Of the four Israeli ones, Karni is equipped to handle 750 trucks a day. The crossing point at Sufa is meant mainly for exporting building supplies to Gaza, while Erez is a pedestrian crossing point. Palestinian trucks may enter Egypt from Gaza, but Egyptian trucks may not enter the Gaza Strip. According to the state, the Karni crossing has always been a terrorist target, but all the more so since the disengagement. "Terrorist organizations regarded the crossing in the past - and increasingly so after Israeli forces left the Gaza Strip… - as a weak spot, through which it was possible to smuggle weapons and terrorists into Israel and as a prime target for attacking Israeli soldiers and civilians working there." Since January, there have been many warnings of planned terror attacks at Karni, Helman said, adding that it was only in the wake of such warnings that the defense minister ordered the crossing closed. Helman also rejected the petitioners' argument that Israel was responsible for the well-being of the Palestinians in accordance with international humanitarian law, "for we are talking about foreigners, residents of a foreign entity living outside Israel and in territory that is not under Israeli control." He added that Israel was working with international humanitarian organization to try to ease the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza.