Palestinians concerned over Israel's plan to close Gaza crossing

Palestinians concerned over Israel's plan to close Gaza crossing

The Palestinians expressed on Monday concerns over an Israeli decision to close by the end of January Karni commercial crossing point, better known as al-Menta crossing, on the border between eastern Gaza Strip and Israel, Xinhua reported.

Well-informed Palestinian sources said the Israeli authorities have decided to close the key commercial crossing by the end of January and move the access of export and import to Kerem Shalom crossing point on the border between southeast Gaza Strip and Israel.

Hamas movement, which has been ruling the enclave since June 2007, rejected the Israeli plan. Its spokesman in Gaza Sami Abu Zuhri said that the closure of al-Mentar Crossing Point and moving the commercial access to Kerem Shalom "means that Israel is tightening the blockade and doubling the people's suffering."

"Such plans reveal the Israeli claim that it has eased the blockade is a lie," Abu Zuhri said in a press statement. He called on the international community "to urge Israel to stop these measures and keep all the crossings of the Gaza Strip open round the clock."

Israel has imposed a tight blockade on the coastal enclave after Hamas seized control of it in 2007. However, Israel announced that it decided to relax the blockade following its naval commandos' forces attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla on May 31, 2010.

The Ramallah-based al-Ayyam daily reported on Monday that during a meeting held between Israeli and Palestinian officials on Dec. 27, 2010, Israel informed the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) that it will decide soon to close Karni (al-Mentar) crossing point.

The daily quoted Palestinian sources as saying that the Israeli side informed its Palestinian counterpart about the decision to close down Karni crossing. The sources added that they agreed to make Kerem Shalom crossing the only key crossing point for the Gaza Strip's export and import.

However, Nazmi Muhana, chief of the PNA Crossings Authorities who attended the meeting, told Xinhua that "we discussed how to facilitate the commercial movement, but we didn't talk about closing any of the crossings."

He ruled out that Israel will take a final decision to close Karni crossing, adding "it is only an Israeli decision and the Palestinian Authority won't be able to stop it. Anyhow, the crossing hasn't been active over the past three years and Israel only operates it twice a week."

Al-Mentar crossing is considered as a key crossing point for the Gaza Strip. Before Hamas seized control of the enclave and the blockade was tightened, it used to work round the clock.

In early January, Israel shut down Nahal Ozz deport east of Gaza City, which mainly allowed in fuel supplies for the Gaza Strip. In September last year, Israel closed Sufa crossing point on the border between eastern Gaza Strip and Israel, which was mainly for allowing in construction materials.

Israel has recently expanded the Kerem Shalom crossing point which is also close to the border with Egypt. Israel pledged to increase the export and import through Kerem Shalom crossing point. Recent reports said that Israel is trying to strengthen the PNA by granting it more authority at the crossings.

Ghassan al-Khatib, spokesman of the PNA government in the West Bank, denied these reports. He told Xinhua that the report that a new joint Israeli-Palestinian committee was recently formed to work on expanding Kerem Shalom crossings was inaccurate, adding " We haven't received such an offer from Israel."

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