Israeli Forces on High Alert as Hamas Heightens Threats

YERUSHALAYIM

Palestinian workers wait at the Erez crossing in Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip, as they wait to enter Israel for work, on March 13. (Attia Muhammed/Flash90)

The Defense Ministry said on Motzoei Shabbos that it would close Israel’s border crossings to Gaza workers after a series of rockets were fired from the territory controlled by the Hamas terrorist group in recent days.

The rocket fire came amid near-daily clashes at Har HaBayis over the past week, with Palestinians hurling stones and fireworks and Israeli soldiers entering the compound and firing rubber-coated bullets and stun grenades.

Hamas fired two rockets into Israel late Friday, with one landing in an open area inside Israel and the other falling inside Gaza. Palestinian media said that two residents were wounded by the rocket that fell short.

Another rocket was fired from the strip early Shabbos morning, but the IDF did not specify where it landed. There were no reports of casualties or damage, baruch Hashem.

The IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said the crossing used by workers would not be reopened on Sunday.

“The reopening of the crossing will be decided accordingly with a security assessment,” it said in a statement.

In recent months Israel had issued thousands of work permits to Gazans as a goodwill gesture, mostly for work in construction.

The Gaza workers union said the closure was “collective punishment” and Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the move “aims at tightening the siege and is a form of aggression that we cannot accept.”

“This will not succeed. The policy of collective punishment against the Palestinians has always proven to fail,” he told The Associated Press.

The violence in Yerushalayim’s Old City and a string of deadly terrorist attacks perpetrated by Palestinians inside Israel in recent weeks have raised fears of another war, similar to last year’s May fighting.

The IDF said it did not think Hamas was interested in an escalation at the moment. Nevertheless, it is expected to remain on high alert as it deemed the next two weeks challenging in terms of the conflict.

It might also recruit more reserve troops to protect the so-called “seam zone” – a term used to refer to an area east of the Green Line and west of the Jerusalem-adjacent security fence. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi is expected to discuss the matter on Sunday.

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