Israel reclosure of crossings dampens Gazans’ hopes

ASDF213C.jpgGAZA (Reuters) – Israel responded to Thursday’s rocket attack by again closing its border crossing with Gaza on Friday, dampening hopes among Gazans that a ceasefire between Hamas and the Jewish state might ease an Israeli-led blockade.

A truce brokered by Egypt on June 19 calls on militants in the Gaza Strip to halt rocket fire in return for Israel gradually lifting its blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory.

But, the Israeli army’s killing of a top militant commander in the occupied West Bank, sporadic rocket attacks and periodic Israeli closures of Gaza’s crossings have strained the truce.

Like thousands of Gazans who had hoped the ceasefire would offer respite from the stifling blockade, 60-year-old Kefaya Abu-Odah is angry at Gazan militants who have been breaching the truce, prompting Israel to shut the border crossings.

“They (militants) do not want calm and neither does Israel,” she said at a cattle market in the northern Gaza Strip where she sought to sell her two sheep.

She doubted the ceasefire would last.

Rocket fire against Israel is rarely criticized by Palestinians, who view such attacks as a legitimate response to Israel’s economic blockade of Gaza and its military operations against militant groups in the occupied West Bank.

Israel maintains its cordon is a response to rocket attacks against its civilians and has said its crackdown on militants in the West Bank was necessary to stop attacks against Israelis.

“I want to sell the sheep and earn some money so I can live. I can’t even find food for my sheep,” she said, adding that 60 members of her family shared a small building in the costal territory, home to some 1.5 million aid-dependent Palestinians.

Others at the market complained the ceasefire, now just over two weeks old, has done little to lift Gaza’s shattered economy.

“What came in was very limited and did not meet what is required,” livestock merchant Saber Abu Haleeb said of the amount of food supplies and goods Israel has allowed into the territory since the truce went into effect.

Israel cut back sharply on the supply of goods into the Gaza Strip a year ago, after Hamas seized the territory from forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas’s more secular Fatah faction.

Responding to Israel’s decision to reclose the crossings, Hamas said on Friday it was suspending indirect talks to secure the release of an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas-led militants two years ago.

Saki Abu al-Ward, a heart patient, said gunmen behind the rocket attacks wanted to sabotage the truce, which he had hoped would allow him to travel to Egypt to receive better treatment.

“We hoped crossings would open and especially the Rafah crossing through which patients like me could go for treatment,” said the 56-year-old.

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