Israel-Gaza Border Crossings Reopened

Demonstrators mark Palestinian Land Day at the Israeli embassy in London on Saturday – 40 Palestinian children were killed and 3,000 injured by Israeli forces on the Great March of Return on Gaza’s border with Israel last year

ISRAEL has reopened two vital border crossings between the occupied territories and the blockaded Gaza Strip, about a week after it closed them amid escalating tensions with Palestinians in the enclave.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli ministry of military affairs unit that oversees the crossings said that the Erez crossing for people and the Kerem Shalom crossing for goods were reopened on Sunday morning.

They had been closed last Monday, when the Tel Aviv regime launched multiple strikes against Hamas positions in Gaza following a purported rocket attack that reached deep into occupied territories.

The Kerem Shalom land crossing between the southern Gaza Strip and the occupied territories is the main export-import terminal for the inhabitants.

The Erez crossing is situated at the northern end of the Gaza Strip and indirectly links Gaza to the occupied West Bank.

The reopening also comes after thousands of Palestinians protested along the Gaza border with Israel on Saturday, marking the one-year anniversary of the Great March of Return and the Palestinian Land Day. Four Palestinians were killed during the latest protests.

More than 260 Palestinians have been killed and about 26,000 others injured by Israeli forces ever since the Great March of Return protest rallies began in the Gaza Strip on March 30, 2018.

Palestinians are demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of their lands, and the right of return of all Palestinian refugees to their homeland.

The Gaza clashes reached their peak on May 14 last year, which coincided with the US embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to occupied East Jerusalem.

Gaza has been under Israeli siege since June 2007, which has caused a massive decline in living standards.

Israel has launched three major wars against the enclave since 2008, killing thousands of Gazans and shattering the impoverished territory’s already poor infrastructure.

Meanwhile, UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, says around 40 children were killed last year alone in demonstrations along the fence that separates the besieged Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied territories.

According to the agency, almost 3,000 others have been hospitalised with injuries since the start of the protests one year ago, many leading to life-long disabilities.

UNICEF’s Middle East Director Geert Cappelaere voiced anger at the growing number of casualties, calling for an end to violence against children in Gaza and elsewhere across the occupied territories.

‘UNICEF reiterates its outrage at the very high numbers of children who have been killed and injured as a result of armed conflict 2018,’ Cappelaere said.

Last month, the United Nations children’s agency says it is ‘deeply saddened’ over the recent killing of two Palestinian teenagers by Israeli gunfire in Gaza.

Israeli troops have shot and killed dozens of Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip in recent months alone.

Last October, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) said the Israeli military is deliberately targeting and killing Palestinian children, and condemned the policy as a ‘war crime’.

And the renowned children rights NGO, Defence for Children International – Palestine, has called for the arrest of Israeli troops who kill or maim Palestinian children in clear violation of international law.

The Israeli military has shot and killed 52 Palestinian children since the beginning of this year, the rights group says.

  • Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has stressed the importance of guaranteeing Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in any resolution on the conflict in the country.

‘Any resolution of the Syrian conflict must guarantee the unity, and the territorial integrity of Syria, including the occupied Golan,’ he said in an address to an Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital of Tunis on Sunday.

As ‘millions of Syrians remain displaced and in need, and tens of thousands are arbitrarily detained … we must keep working to forge a political path to a sustainable peace in which all Syrians are heard, grievances are addressed, and needs are met,’ he added.

Guterres’ remarks came days after US President Donald Trump broke decades of international consensus and formally recognised Israeli ‘sovereignty’ over the occupied Golan Heights, a border area the Tel Aviv regime seized from Syria in 1967.

‘This was a long time in the making. Should have taken place decades ago,’ Trump said while signing the proclamation in the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump’s pro-Israel son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, in the White House in Washington, DC.

However, a Wednesday meeting of the UN Security Council turned into another stage for the isolation of the US, as other countries on the council opposed Trump’s move on Golan.

Addressing the meeting, Syria’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, lashed out at Trump’s recognition, saying: ‘This is a criminal project or plan for which the US government and its allies have used all the tools at their disposal.’

Jaafari added that the plan is aimed at guaranteeing chaos and destruction in the area, and dividing the people of the region on religious and ethnic grounds in order to ‘build a new reality’.

Syria has repeatedly reaffirmed its sovereignty over Golan, saying the territory must be completely restored to its control.

Elsewhere in his Sunday address, the UN chief said the Middle East faces ‘turbulent winds’ from ‘the wars in Yemen and Syria,’ to ‘the rise and fall of Daesh’ and ‘the persistent denial of the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people.

‘I strongly appeal for the unity of the Arab world as a fundamental condition for peace and prosperity in the region, and to avoid leaving the region vulnerable to interference by foreign parties with destabilising effects,’ Guterres said, calling for a regional vision rooted in cooperation, respect and mutual interest.

He recognised the need to ‘untangle the Gordian knot of insecurity, allow no space for sectarianism, and deliver the peace, stability and effective, responsive governance that the people of the region deserve.’

Guterres further pointed to the Stockholm agreement aimed at solving the conflict in Yemen and said: ‘Following last December’s breakthrough in Stockholm, we continue to work closely with the parties to achieve progress towards the redeployment of forces in Hudaydah and the opening of humanitarian corridors on the way to a political solution for Yemen.’

Back in December, representatives from the Houthi Ansarullah movement and the Riyadh-sponsored government of ex-president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, reached the truce deal during UN-mediated peace talks in Sweden.

The UN chief says warring parties of Yemen have reached an agreement to hold a ceasefire in the port city of Hudaydah. Under the deal, they agreed to the withdrawal of their troops and the deployment of UN monitors to the port city, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.

Addressing the Arab League summit, European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said that ignoring United Nations Security Council resolutions on the Golan Heights was ‘not a solution’.

She also said a two state solution for Israel and Palestine was ‘the only viable and realistic solution … we have a responsibility to prevent the two state solution from being irreversibly dismantled. Any future plan will have to recognise the internationally agreed parameters including on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, and the status of Jerusalem  as the future capital of the two states,’ she pointed out.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, for his part, said the Arab League summit in Tunis must send a message on the importance of establishing a Palestinian state.

He added that regional and international stability should come through ‘a just and comprehensive settlement that includes the rights of the Palestinian people and leads to the establishment of a Palestinian state with  Jerusalem  as its capital.’