Closed or Open? Debate on Preventing Fire Terror Plays Out at Gaza Crossing

A Palestinian man rides on a truck carrying fruits as it arrives at Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday. (Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

Despite a declaration Monday by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel to Gaza would be closed except for emergency shipments, the crossing was operating Tuesday morning, although at a lower than usual capacity. Gasoline, heating oil, food, and diapers were among the shipments that were allowed in Tuesday, Hadashot News reported, which added that 200 trucks were admitted into Gaza, compared to the usual 600.

The partial closure – or opening – of the crossing reflects an ongoing difference of opinion between the political echelon, represented by Netanyahu and especially Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, against top IDF security officials. The former are in favor of clamping down hard on the Gaza civilian population as a response to the ongoing terror campaign by Hamas, which has devastated Israeli farms and forests along the Gaza border. The latter believes that doing so will not pressure Hamas to stop its campaign, but will simply make the suffering of Gaza civilians worse.

Netanyahu on Monday signed an order closing the Kerem Shalom crossing, the only active crossing through which trucks carrying products and raw materials from Palestinian Authority-controlled areas in Yehudah and Shomron, or from Ashdod Port, are able to enter Gaza. The only alternative shipping point into Gaza is the Rafiach crossing, which has been closed for many months and is only occasionally opened.

Only “humanitarian aid” will be permitted into Gaza, the order said. According to Hadashot News, the Rafiach crossing, which is operated by Egypt, was open for a time on Tuesday, perhaps in response to Netanyahu’s announcement, the report said.

In lieu of closing the passages, the IDF is considering stepping up its campaign against senior Hamas terrorists, the report said. The IDF has been undertaking various methods to stem the ongoing fire terror while avoiding harm to civilians, but if things don’t change soon, the army may lose patience and act more aggressively against civilians, the report added.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad slammed Netanyahu’s announcement. The decision, they said in a statement, “is a new crime against humanity. We call on the world to act to halt this crime, which has dangerous consequences. The closure of the crossings is in the same category as a declaration of war. We have the means to react to this,” the terror groups said.