Increasing tension following rocket firing and airstrikes
A series of incidents during the week have increased tensions in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel. On 28 April, Palestinian armed groups fired a number of projectiles towards southern Israel; no injuries or damage to property was reported. In response, Israeli air forces launched two air strikes, targeting military training sites in Khan Younis and Rafah cities; a member of a Palestinian armed group was reportedly injured.
On 26 April, a 16 year-old Palestinian boy was also injured by Israeli forces near the fence between Gaza and Israel after a group of Palestinian youths threw stones at soldiers patrolling along the fence. A number of additional incidents in the access restricted area (ARA) near the fence were reported this week, during which Israeli forces detained three civilians, including a child, who attempted to cross illegally into Israel (in one incident on 27 April); and conducted at least two land leveling operations inside the Gaza Strip. In the context of restrictions on access to fishing areas beyond 3 nautical miles from the shore, Israeli naval forces opened warning fire towards fishermen on a number of occasions; no injuries were reported but one boat was damaged.
Closure of goods’ crossing in response to rocket firing; over 500 permits for Christian Gazans issued to cross Erez
On 28 and 29 April, in response to the firing of rockets by Palestinian armed groups, the Israeli authorities closed again the Kerem Shalom crossing, the only functional crossing for goods to the Gaza Strip. Since 27 February 2013, the Kerem Shalom crossing has been closed for 13 days following rocket firing; including weekends and Israeli holydays, the cumulative period of closures reached 36 out of 63 days. These repeated closures have resulted in intermittent shortages of certain fresh food items, as well as of cooking gas.
Also, further restrictions were imposed at the Erez passenger crossing during these days restricting movement of Palestinians to urgent humanitarian cases holding permits only; businessmen, Palestinian staff working in NGOs and people visiting families in the West Bank were not allowed to cross. Despite these restrictions, the Israeli authorities issued around 540 permits for Palestinian Christians in the Gaza Strip to cross into the West Bank and Israel, in the context of the Orthodox Easter celebrations.