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Israel announces Gaza trade, fishing crackdown

By Reuters - Jul 10,2018 - Last updated at Jul 10,2018

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Israel said on Monday it was closing the Gaza Strip's main commercial crossing and limiting the Palestinian coastal enclave's fishing zone in a crackdown targeting Hamas Islamists whom it blames for border protests now in their fourth month.

"We will crack down immediately on the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip. In a significant move, we will today shut down the Kerem Shalom [border] crossing," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks to his parliament faction.

An Israeli occupation force statement said Kerem Shalom would remain open for the transfer of specially approved humanitarian goods. It also said Gaza's fishing zone would revert to 11km after it was temporarily expanded to 17km.

The military statement, and separate remarks by Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, linked the new measures to fires from incendiary kites and helium balloons that have been flown over the border since the protests began on March 30.

The Israeli occupation forces have killed at least 136 Palestinians during the protests. Facing international censure, Israel claims its lethal force has been needed to prevent infiltrations. 

Hamas officials could not immediately be reached for comment about Monday’s announcement by Israel.

Organisers say the demonstrations are expressions of popular frustration that aim to press demands such as for Palestinians’ right to return to their homeland from which they were forced to flee in 1948 during the creation of Isreal. They also are advocating for the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza to ease.

There have been no Israeli casualties in the Gaza border confrontations.

“We do not intend to continue absorbing and continuing with this situation,” Lieberman said in separate comments to his own parliamentary faction. 

Israel, which last fought in the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza, does not seek a new military flare-up, he said.

Israel briefly shut Kerem Shalom in May.

On July 5, a US special envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, Tweeted a picture of repair work at Kerem Shalom and accused Hamas in an attack on the terminal.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has been watching Gaza closely as it seeks to improve humanitarian conditions while sidelining Hamas, which is blacklisted as a terrorist group in the West.

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