More mortar fire after Israel reopens Gaza crossings

by Kal El on July 8, 2008 · View Comments

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What a shock, Israel opens Gaza checkpoints, and Palestinians launch mortars, once again violating the truce they called for.

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Gaza militants fired a mortar on Tuesday just hours after Israel reopened crossing points into the Hamas-ruled territory that it closed in response to an earlier violation of a three-week-old truce.

The Israeli military said a mortar round struck an uninhabited area of southern Israel without causing casualties or damage.

Israel has responded to previous attacks by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip by sealing the border, but it gave no immediate indication that it planned to do so again following the latest incident.

“I am not aware of any decision to close the crossing points,” military spokesman Peter Lerner said.

Israel closed crossings into Gaza on Tuesday morning after a mortar round was fired at southern Israel the previous day, but reopened them several hours later.

“Following a special request by the Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, Defence Minister Ehud Barak ordered the reopening of the crossings at around noon (0900 GMT),” Barak’s office said.

Egypt played a key role in mediating the Gaza truce between Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas, which went into effect on June 19.

Suleiman, Egypt’s pointman for Palestinian affairs, was due to hold talks on the fragile truce with a Hamas delegation that travelled to Cairo on Tuesday.

Violence in and around impoverished Gaza has dropped substantially since the truce went into effect.

Hamas, which seized power in Gaza in June 2007, has said its own fighters are adhering to the truce and has vowed to arrest anyone who violates it. But other militant movements have fired several rockets and mortar rounds at southern Israel since June 19.

Israel has responded to the attacks by closing border crossings with Gaza four times.

Hamas has said the closures were a violation of the truce, which calls for a gradual easing of an embargo Israel imposed after the Islamist movement seized power in the Gaza Strip.

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