Israel says it is partially reopening its only commercial crossing with the besieged Gaza Strip.
According to a statement issued by Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s office on Tuesday, the partial reopening was set to begin at 12:00pm (9:00 GMT), after which it “will be possible to transfer gas and fuel into the Gaza Strip, in addition to food and medicine”.
The Kerem Shalom crossing, known as Karem Abu Salem to Palestinians, was partially closed on July 9 with only goods regarded by Israel as “humanitarian” – such as fuel, medicine, and food – allowed to enter.
A week later, Israeli authorities, citing “continued terror efforts of Hamas”, tightened the blockade on the coastal enclave, suspending fuel and gas deliveries.
The authorities were referring to incendiary kites and balloons sent from the Palestinian side above the Israeli fence east of the strip, setting fire to agricultural lands owned by Israelis and reportedly causing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage.
Tuesday’s statement also said the crossing could soon return to full activity “conditioned on the full cessation of fire-balloon launches and friction on the fence”.
The statement said that the number of kites and balloons carrying firebombs had been reduced but not totally eliminated.
The partial reopening follows urgent warnings from UN officials that said emergency fuel supplies are running low in the Gaza Strip and that the shortage is starting to affect hospitals and water sanitation.
The coastal enclave suffers from a severe lack of electricity and relies on fuel-powered generators during outages that last hours at a time.
On Monday, a spokesperson for the electric utility in Gaza said the strip’s two million population would go without power for 18 hours a day instead of 16.
“We are trying to supply a minimal level of four hours a day of electricity to Gaza residents,” said Mohammed Tabet, “but that too is in doubt, so the duration of the cut will extend beyond 16 hours a day”.
Electricity supply in Gaza is dependent on six power lines from Israel, as well as power supplied by Egypt.
Israel and Hamas reached a ceasefire at the weekend following a major flare-up of violence on Friday.
Israel had carried out a wave of air attacks killing three members of Hamas’ armed wing after one of its soldiers was shot dead on the other side of the fence east of Gaza.
Palestinians have been protesting since March 30 east of the Gaza Strip, calling for their right of return. More than 140 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and 16,000 more wounded.