Israel closes passage to Gaza workers after rocket fire

Israel says it will close its crossing to thousands of Gaza workers after a series of rockets were fired from territory ruled by the militant group Hamas in recent days

JERUSALEM – Israel said Saturday it would close its crossing to thousands of Gaza workers after a series of rockets were fired from territory ruled by the militant group Hamas in recent days.

The rocket fire came amid near-daily clashes at a holy site in Jerusalem over the past week, with Palestinians throwing rocks and fireworks and Israeli police entering the compound and firing rubber bullets and stun grenades.

Violence in Jerusalem and a series of deadly attacks inside Israel and raids across the occupied West Bank have raised fears of another war between Israel and Hamas like the one that erupted in similar circumstances last year .

Another rocket was fired from Gaza early Saturday, but the military did not say where it landed. No casualties or damage were reported.

The Israeli military body that coordinates civil affairs in Gaza said the crossing used by the workers would not reopen on Sunday, at the start of the work week. “The reopening of the crossing point will be decided accordingly with a security assessment,” it said in a statement.

In recent months, Israel has issued thousands of work permits to Palestinians in Gaza, which has been under a crippling Israeli and Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces nearly 15 years ago.

Israel described the move as a goodwill gesture to maintain calm, but the permits – which can be revoked at any time – also give it a strong form of pressure on the Palestinians. Israel grants permits to some 12,000 Palestinians in Gaza and over 100,000 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, mostly for construction and other odd jobs.

Israel seized East Jerusalem – which includes major holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims – as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the 1967 war. The Palestinians want the three territories to form their future state.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem in an internationally unrecognized move and built Jewish settlements across the occupied West Bank that are now home to nearly 500,000 settlers alongside nearly 3 million Palestinians. There have been no substantive peace talks for over a decade.

The violence in Jerusalem has centered on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. The Jews regard the top of the hill on which it is built as their holiest site and call it the Temple Mount because it was the location of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

The site sits at the emotional heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and clashes there have often sparked violence elsewhere.

ABC News

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