Israel closes Gaza border crossing damaged by Palestinians

A truck parks next to a security barrier inside the Kerem Shalom border crossing terminal between Israel and Gaza Strip January 16, 2018. Picture: REUTERS

GAZA (Reuters) – Israel closed a main border crossing with the Gaza Strip and destroyed a Hamas militant tunnel on Saturday, a day after renewed violence between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces on the edge of the coastal enclave.

Dozens of Palestinian demonstrators had broken into the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom terminal, the main conduit for goods in and out of the territory, on Friday. They set alight a pipeline that delivers gas from Israel, torched a conveyor belt and damaged a fuel pipe.

“The crossing will remain closed until the damage caused by the riots are repaired and will reopen in accordance with a situation assessment,” the Israeli military said.

It will be opened for humanitarian cases only in the meantime, it said.

Later on Saturday, Israeli war planes destroyed an underground attack tunnel near the border that was being built by Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, to help militants cross into Israel, the military said.

The tunnel had reached just a few meters from the border, adjacent to Israeli communities, the military said.

“It was approximately one kilometer long. It was dug over a number of months and we have been following it for a number of weeks,” spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said.

Israel says it has destroyed several cross-border militant tunnels in recent months. Palestinian gunmen used tunnels to blindside Israeli forces during the 2014 Gaza war.

EMBASSY TO OPEN

More than two million people are packed into the narrow Gaza Strip, where poverty and unemployment rates are high. Kerem Shalom is one of three main Gaza border crossings with Israel and Egypt, but it is where most goods pass through daily.

The incursion into Kerem Shalom took place during a weekly mass protest in which thousands of Palestinians gathered along the Israel-Gaza border.

 

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