Crossing from Israel to Gaza to reopen

  • 03/05/2016

By Dan Williams

Israel plans to reopen a second border point for commercial traffic into the Gaza Strip, an official says, a step in gradually easing the blockade imposed on the Palestinian enclave since 2007.

The decision to allow trucks through the Erez terminal, on Gaza's northeastern tip, was taken in recognition that a truce that ended the 2014 war against Hamas is holding, the official said on Monday.

Israel says its blockade prevents the movement of militants and stops construction materials that could be used by Hamas to make bunkers and tunnels. Palestinians there say they are under siege and are unable to rebuild homes destroyed by Israeli bombing.

Israel halted commercial traffic through Erez in 2000, after a Palestinian revolt erupted, and only passengers transit has been allowed since.

The official said details of its reopening were still being worked out, and gave no implementation date: "It won't be today or tomorrow."

Changing Gaza policy is politically sensitive in Israel, as Hamas, while holding fire, remains openly hostile toward it, so the announcement was kept low-key.

The official said the decision was mainly aimed at reducing pressure on the sole crossing point currently handling commercial traffic, Kerem Shalom in southeastern Gaza, as well as reducing truck traffic on Israeli roads leading to it.

But the official added that Israel "has an interest in Gazans living in dignity - both on a humanitarian level, and because it helps preserve the quiet, in parallel to the security deterrence that exists. It is good for both Gazans and for us".