Daily Israel Report

Israel Cancels Plan to Open Gaza Crossings Due to Hamas Attacks

Israel cancelled a plan to open the Kerem Shalom Crossing into Gaza on Wednesday for a shipment of humanitarian aid after a night of rocket fire.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 12/24/2008, 12:19 AM / Last Update: 12/24/2008, 10:11 AM

Israel News Photo: (Flash 90)

Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced Wedneday morning he was reversing his decision of Tuesday night to open the Gaza crossings for shipments of basic humanitarian aid into the region. Although opening the crossings was contrary to his previous policy of retaliating against rocket and mortar attacks by closing off the passages to Gaza, Barak changed his mind following the intensity of Wednesday morning's attacks.

The decision to ease the blockade came after rocket attacks had slowed down following intervention by Egypt, which brokered a 24-hour "ceasefire" that simply didn't last. 

IDF Major Peter Lerner, Defense Ministry Coordinator for Government Activities in the Terrorities, said that the humanitarian situation in Gaza was an issue to be dealt with by Hamas, not Israel. Yes, the crossings have been closed for a week, he said, but added, "the situation in southern Israel is unbearable. More than 18 rockets and mortars were fired at the western Negev last night alone," Lerner pointed out, adding, "Just a few minutes ago more rockets were fired towards Ashkelon."

Ultimately, the responsibility for the situation in Gaza rests with the Hamas terrorists who continue to sabotage deliveries of supplies to its constituents, he said. "The conditions under which the population lives and the humanitarian situation there rests under the responsibility of the Hamas Authority in Gaza," Lerner said.

"Although we planned to allow the delivery of humanitarian supplies this morning," he pointed out the terrorists nevertheless initiated a massive attack, ensuring their people could not receive them.

Regularly scheduled passage of Gaza medical patients through the Erez Crossing is continuing despite the attacks, Lerner said.


Trucks wait in line at the Kerem Shalom crossing

Ultimately, the responsibility for the humanitarian situation in Gaza rests with the Hamas terrorists who continue to sabotage deliveries of supplies into the region, he pointed out. "The conditions under which the population lives and the humanitarian situation there rests under the responsibility of the Hamas Authority in Gaza," Lerner said.

"Although we planned to allow the delivery of humanitarian supplies this morning," he said, "the terrorists nevertheless initiated their attacks, ensuring their people could not receive them."  Last Tuesday the very same scenario occurred: trucks were ready to roll with humanitarian supplies, the crossings were opened, intense rocket fire began and as Gaza authorities have been warned in the past, the crossings were closed in response. The crossings have been closed since then.

Lerner had told Israel National News late Tuesday night that around 49 truckloads of "basic food commodities," including medications, rice, flour and other staples, were to be allowed through the terminal, about half of a normal day's delivery into the region.

Five of the trucks were donated by Egypt, and approximately 20 were sent by United Nations agencies. The remaining truckloads were contributed by various other international organizations.

Short and Medium-Range Attacks
Between 2:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. Wednesday morning at least 14 rockets and nine mortar shells had been fired by Gaza terrorists at Jewish communities ranging from distances as far south as the Gaza Belt, to as far north as Ashkelon. One home in a kibbutz sustained a direct hit, and an army base was attacked as well.

Lerner said he was unable to comment on what, if any, IDF response there would be to the attacks.

Egypt has reportedly been pressuring the Hamas terrorist organization that controls Gaza to renew the "truce" that expired last Friday.

The terror group agreed Monday to a 24-hour ceasefire, during which it fired "only" three rockets and one mortar shell. By Tuesday, however, Gaza terrorists had resumed their attacks on the western Negev. Six Kassam rockets had exploded in different locations in southern Israel at varying intervals by Tuesday night.