Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Border Crossings to Gaza Closed Following Kassam Attacks

Avi Tuchmayer

Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced Wednesday that Israel would close all border crossings into the Gaza area except the Erez Crossing, in reaction to Tuesday's Kassam rocket attack on Sderot in which several people were injured.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told reporters that the organization viewed the closure as a violation of the six-day-old ceasefire. "The closure by the occupation (Israel-ed.) is a violation of the deal for calm in Gaza," he said. The crossings had been scheduled to open Wednesday morning to allow humanitarian aid to enter the area. Israel committed to increasing cross-border aid shipments by 50 percent as part of the ceasefire agreement. Until Wednesday, that goal has been consistently met.

Egypt: Israel Promises No Response

According to reports in the Arab press, Israel promised Egyptian negotiators there would be no military response to the violation of the six-day-old ceasefire with terror groups operating from Gaza. The Kuwaiti newspaper al-Qabas also reported that Israel has expressed "concern" that Iran is responsible for decisions regarding Hamas, the ceasefire and IDF captive Gilad Shalit.

Instead of retaliating for the rocket fire, Israeli officials hope Hamas members will move to enforce the ceasefire on other terrorist groups.

But a senior Hamas spokesman warned that the organization would not serve as "Israel's policeman" and would not act against groups that violated the temporary ceasefire, known in Arabic as a "tahdiyeh."

Egyptian sources also said Wednesday that they would pressure Israel into releasing 600 murderers, Islamic terrorists classified by Israel as having "blood on their hands," up from the original 450 that Israel had agreed upon, in exchange for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

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