Key aid crossing into Gaza closed after rocket attack kills Israeli soldiers

An Israeli soldier directs a tank near the border with southern Gaza after several Israelis were wounded when mortar fire struck the Kerem Shalom. Photograph: Amir Levy/Getty Images
An Israeli soldier directs a tank near the border with southern Gaza after several Israelis were wounded when mortar fire struck the Kerem Shalom. Photograph: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Kerem Shalom crossing was closed after Hamas claimed responsibility for rocket attack, which Israel said was fired from Rafah

One of the main crossings used to deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza was closed after a rocket attack claimed by Hamas killed three soldiers, the Israeli military said, with a reprisal strike on a house in Rafah reportedly killing at least three Palestinians.

Israel’s military said 10 projectiles were launched from Rafah in southern Gaza towards the area of the Kerem Shalom crossing. The crossing was closed soon after, but other crossings remained open.

The armed wing of Hamas said it fired rockets at an Israeli army base next to the crossing, but did not confirm where it fired them from. Hamas media quoted a source close to the group as saying the commercial crossing was not the target. Israel’s military said it believed Hamas was targeting soldiers massed on the Gaza border in preparation for a possible Rafah invasion.

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More than a million Palestinians are sheltering in Rafah, near the border with Egypt.

Shortly after the Hamas attack, an Israeli airstrike hit a house in Rafah, killing three people and wounding several others, Palestinian medics said. The Israeli military confirmed the counter-strike, saying it struck the launcher from which the Hamas projectiles were fired as well as a nearby “military structure … The launches carried out by Hamas adjacent to the Rafah Crossing … are a clear example of the terrorist organisation’s systematic exploitation of humanitarian facilities and spaces, and their continued use of the Gazan civilian population as human shields.”

Hamas denies it uses civilians as human shields.

Just before midnight, an Israeli airstrike killed nine Palestinians, including a baby, in another house in Rafah, Gaza health officials said. They said the new strike increased the death toll on Sunday to at least 19 people.

Israel has vowed to enter the southern Gaza city and flush out Hamas forces, but has faced mounting pressure to hold fire as the operation could derail fragile humanitarian efforts in Gaza and endanger many more lives.

Sunday’s attack on the crossing came as senior Israeli officials ramped up pressure on Hamas to accept recently proposed terms for a ceasefire or risk a new onslaught “in the very near future”.

Since it reopened several months ago, the Kerem Shalom crossing has been one of the key routes for bringing aid into Gaza.

The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, called for an independent investigation into the attack at the crossing. He also said Israel this week denied him entry to Gaza for a second time.

The closing of Kerem Shalom came shortly after the head of the UN World Food Programme asserted there was “full-blown famine” in devastated northern Gaza, one of the most prominent warnings yet of the toll of restrictions on aid entering the territory. It was not a formal famine declaration.

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Categories: Israel, Shame on You
Anton Nieuwenhuizen

Written by:Anton Nieuwenhuizen All posts by the author

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