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Kerem Shalom crossing reopens

Aug. 15, 2018 12:34 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 18, 2018 10:18 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Kerem Shalom crossing, in the besieged Gaza Strip, was reopened at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning upon order by Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

Lieberman, along with the senior Israeli security chiefs, decided during a meeting on Tuesday to reopen the Kerem Shalom crossing following three days of calm alongside the Gaza border; the decision also included expanding the allowed fishing zone off the coast back to a distance of nine nautical miles from the current three.

The Israeli minister said in a statement "I differentiate between the Hamas leadership and regular Gaza residents.That is why I've decided to reopen the Kerem Shalom crossing and expand the fishing zone back to 9 miles as a clear message to the residents of the strip: Calm pays off and violence does not."

Lieberman added that "the opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing, after four days of quiet, is intended to indicate to the population in Gaza that maintaining quiet is first and foremost an interest for Gaza's residents."

He also mentioned that the past four days have been "the most quiet since March 30th," known as the start of "The Great March of Return" protests, in which thousands of Palestinian civilians took to the borders of the Gaza Strip, demanding their right of return as refugees to their original homelands, now in present-day Israel.

The reopening of the crossing will allow the entry of fuel, construction material, food and other goods into the besieged Gaza Strip as it was before its closure on July 9th.

However, on Wednesday morning, Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats in northern Gaza and forced them to return to the shore.

No injuries were reported during the incident.

The closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing in July came after the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to impose severe economic sanctions on the besieged Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu's decision was four months after the launch of incendiary kites and explosive balloons from the strip into southern Israel, which has scorched thousands of acres of land along the borders.

The decision includes the temporarily suspension of imports and exports with the exception of basic humanitarian supplies through the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Netanyahu's decision also reduced the allowed fishing zone from six to three nautical miles.

Following a reduction of incendiary kites and explosive balloons being launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, Lieberman decided to partially reopen the Kerem Shalom crossing at the end of July, allowing food, medicine, fuel and gas into Gaza.

In response to the severe economic sanctions imposed, United Nations officials have strongly warned of catastrophic humanitarian conditions if Israel continues with the blockade on Gaza that it has imposed for nearly 12 years and the closure of main commercial crossing with Gaza.

Meanwhile, the Hamas movement, continues to hold discussions in Cairo, Egypt and a delegation of Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) heads will convene in Ramallah on Wednesday to discuss the matter.

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