Israel detonates explosive planted on Gaza border as people crossing re-opens
MAHMUD HAMS (AFP)
Israel re-opened the sole pedestrian crossing with the Gaza Strip on Thursday, just over a week after is was closed following a destructive Palestinian protest.
The reopening of the Erez crossing came as the IDF revealed that it had discovered and neutralized an explosive device planted along the southern Gaza border fence, which it said was intended to target Israeli soldiers operating in the area.
The army said in a statement that the planting of the explosive charge during violent disturbances on the border "serves as additional proof that Hamas seeks to preserve friction near the security fence and to harm IDF soldiers, while deliberately using Gazan civilians as human shields and as cover for violent attacks".
"The IDF is ready for a wide range of scenarios and will operate with determination against ongoing terror attempts against IDF soldiers and security infrastructure," the statement concluded.
Ongoing protests on the Gaza border since March 30 have triggered frequent clashes with the Israeli army and resulted in several military flare-ups.
At least 176 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israeli fire since the protests began, including at least 50 members of Hamas. Israel accuses the group of hijacking the weekly protests to carry out terror attacks or attempt to infiltrate Israel.
One Israeli soldier has been killed over the same period by Hamas sniper fire.
The shuttering of Erez crossing on September 5 came as Palestinians in Gaza protested a decision by Washington to cease all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and caused damage to the infrastructure on the Palestinian side of the crossing.
Palestinian protesters have also been demanding the "right of return" to homes their families fled or were expelled from during the 1948 war that accompanied Israel's creation.
The "right of return" is held by the Palestinians as a prerequisite for any peace agreement with Israel, but it is a demand the Jewish state has rejected out of hand.
The issue was a contributing factor in Washington's decision to de-fund UNRWA, which has extended refugee status of fourth and fifth generation descendants of legitimate Palestinian refugees of the 1948 war surrounding Israel's establishment.
Israel has enforced an air, land and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip for more than a decade, deeming it necessary to prevent the smuggling of materials for terror purposes to Hamas.
Israel grants permission to a limited number of people to cross. An average of around 1,000 Gazans cross through Erez each day, mostly those in need of medical care but also businesspeople, students and others, Israeli authorities say.
A second crossing with Israel, Kerem Shalom, is for goods only.
Gaza's only other link to the outside world is the Rafah crossing with Egypt. It was closed for years but has been largely open to restricted categories of Palestinians since mid-May.
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No Right of Return! No Right to US Money!