Why would Gazans burn down the main entry point for shipments and humanitarian goods into the Gaza Strip? Analysts told Hadashot News Motzoei Shabbos that for Hamas, it was all about the money; by destroying the monitored Kerem Shalom crossing, Hamas would be able to bring international humanitarian shipments into Gaza via alternative crossings, thus avoiding paying duties to the Palestinian Authority.
On Friday, some 15,000 Gaza Arabs massed on the border fence and rioted, as they have been doing for the past month and a half. Rioters threw rocks and firebombs at Israeli soldiers, who responded with anti-riot measures. One rioter was killed by IDF fire. Soldiers for the first time also opened fire on an Arab youth who attempted to launch a kite with flammable material from Gaza into Israel.
The rioters vandalized and destroyed parts of the Kerem Shalom crossing point on the Gaza side of the border. The Kerem Shalom crossing is the main entry point for supplies and foreign aid to enter Gaza, and as a result of the damage the crossing point is closed until further notice, by order of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. Rioters also damaged gas pipelines that bring fuel into Gaza at the crossing point. Kerem Shalom will remain closed at least until the damage caused by rioters is fixed.
According to the analysts, forcing the shutdown of the Kerem Shalom crossing – currently the only one operating between Israel and Gaza – would force humanitarian groups to ship supplies into Gaza via an alternative route, most likely the Saladin crossing, from Sinai into Gaza. This is a little-used crossing that, unlike the Rafiach crossing from Sinai into Gaza, is not monitored by PA officials. Without supervision, the PA will not be able to record the shipments, and Hamas will get away without having to pay customs and duties that the PA requires.
Israel does not monitor the crossing either, the analysts said, and thus Hamas will be free to bring in supplies that are generally banned, like cement. Israel is working on ways to prevent the use of this crossing to bring in illicit materials, the analysts said.