Israel closes Gaza border crossing to deter violence ahead of planned anti-Israel protests
The Palestinian official explained the reason for the closure was a demonstration organised by Palestinians on Saturday near Gaza’s northern border, as well as the continuing Great March of Return, the Palestinian protest campaign against the state of Israel.
According to the Ma’an news agency, Mohammed Maqadma said: “Israeli authorities informed the commission regarding the closure of Beit Hanoun crossing since Sunday morning and that it will be closed for those travelling outside of Gaza, while for Palestinians returning to Gaza, it will remain open.”
Exemptions on urgent humanitarian grounds will be also allowed.
The Israeli Defence Ministry explained the closure would not apply to those who needed immediate medical assistance outside the Gaza strip.
The decision follows continuing protests by Palestinians on the border, which saw two protestors shot dead by Israeli forces on Friday.
According to Palestinian health officials, two Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire and 60 were injured at a protest along the Baz border, as Egyptian mediators worked to broker a cease-fire.
Hostility between the Israelis and the Palestinians has been steadily mounting since late March, which spelt the beginning of the Great March of Return.
The tensions were compounded further in December last year when US President Donald Trump announced his decision to relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Mr Trump also revealed he officially recognised Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital; a move which was rejected by Palestinians who claim Jerusalem as their rightful city.
In May, Palestinian protestors held placards saying “make Jerusalem free again” and “no to Trump’s illegal decision”.
Since the end of March, Palestinians have been protesting at the Gaza border in a bid to bring an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza.
Palestinian health officials claim 170 Palestinians have been shot by the Israeli military since the protests began.
A further 18,000 have been left injured from the clashes.
Recent calamities on the Israeli-Gaza border were instigated by sustained shelling and the launch of arson balloons by Hamas militants into Israeli-occupied territories.
Egyptian officials have been meeting in Cairo with representatives of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that runs Gaza, in order to broker a possible truce with Israel.
Israel and Egypt imposed severe economic restrictions on Gaza after Hamas sized coastal territory in 2007 from the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority.
Israel contends the economic blockade is needed to contain Hamas, a militant group that seeks Israel’s destruction.
But the closure has harmed Gaza’s economy sharply and has so far failed to oust Hamas or ease the group’s grip on power.