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Israel releases Gaza merchant detained at Erez crossing 8 days ago

Dec. 27, 2016 7:23 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 27, 2016 7:23 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities Monday released a Palestinian merchant following an eight-day detention after being detained by Israeli forces at the Erez crossing between Israel and the besieged Gaza Strip.

Palestinian sources told Ma’an that Hassan Fares Shihadeh from Gaza city was released after eight days of being in Israeli custody. The reasons behind the detention remained unclear.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Defense and COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, were not immediately available to comment.

Israeli forces have detained some 20 businessmen from Gaza since the start of 2016 for various reasons, a source at the Palestinian liaison office told Ma’an last month.

Erez is the only land crossing between Gaza and Israel, although travel is heavily restricted by Israeli authorities as part of a crippling blockade on the coastal enclave in place since 2007.

Palestinians detained at Erez are often interrogated for several hours, sometimes for days, before they are either allowed into Israel or sent back to Gaza.

The Gaza Strip has suffered under an Israeli military blockade since 2007, when Hamas was elected to rule the territory. Residents of Gaza suffer from high unemployment and poverty rates, as well as the consequences of three devastating wars with Israel since 2008, most recently in the summer of 2014.

The UN has said that the besieged Palestinian territory could become "uninhabitable" by 2020, as its 1.8 million residents remain in dire poverty due to the Israeli blockade that has crippled the economy, while continuing to experience slow-paced reconstruction efforts aimed at rebuilding homes for some 75,000 Palestinians who remain displaced since 2014.

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