Palestinian protesters destroy, close humanitarian border crossing


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel announced it would close the border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel which brings most of the humanitarian aid from Israel and the international community to the Palestinian people living in Gaza after it was vandalized for the second week in a row.

Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced on Saturday that the Kerem Shalom crossing would remain closed until the some $9 million in damage is fixed. Humanitarian cases will be approved on a case by case basis, according to the Israel Defense Forces. the crossing will be open for international journalists, according to the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

Palestinian protesters on Friday set on fire the pipeline that brings gas and oil from Israel to Gaza, and also destroyed a conveyer belt that brings goods into the Strip. The pipe also was set on fire at last week’s protests, as were offices and buildings and gates.

Hundreds of trucks carrying merchandise, food and equipment have entered the Gaza Strip every week for years, as well as tons of fuel that has been transferred to the Gaza Strip for its residents’ use, according to the IDF.

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About 15,000 Gazan Palestinians participated in Friday’s protests, for the seventh week in a row. One demonstrator was killed during the protests.

Two fires were sparked on agricultural land in southern Israeli communities near the border by kites sent from Gaza carrying explosives, a new tactic used by the protesters in recent weeks that have burned more than 200 acres of agricultural fields, as well as forest and grasslands.

The weekly protests called the March of Return, are scheduled to end on May 14, the 70th anniversary, according to the Gregorian calendar, of the birth of the modern State of Israel, though Hamas has called for them to continue beyond mid-May. Hamas has called for a massive breach by thousands of Palestinians of the border fence between Israel and Gaza.

The IDF told Israeli media that the demonstrations scheduled for Monday, the same day that the U.S. embassy is dedicated in Jerusalem, are likely to be more violent than the weekly Friday protests leading up to it. The IDF has stationed extra battalions along the fence and will beef up its forces in the West Bank as well, according to reports. May 14 also is the day on the Gregorian calendar when Israel became an independent state 70 years ago, which the Arab world calls the Nakba, or catastrophe.

Some 100,000 protesters are expected at more than a dozen flashpoints along the border on Monday, according to reports.

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said last week that he would like to see thousands of Palestinians break through the fence and cross into Israel on Monday. “What’s the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?” he said.