Israel closes Gaza border crossing again, halting aid deliveries

Israel says its soldier was injured in a mortar attack while aid trucks were crossing the Kerem Shalom border into Gaza.

Palestinian trucks are seen leaving the main commercial crossing with Gaza, Kerem Shalom, in the southern Gaza strip August 11, 2020. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
The COGAT said in a statement that the border crossing was closed after an Israeli soldier was slightly injured in the attack [File: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

A convoy of international aid trucks that started rolling into Gaza through Karem Abu Salem, (Kerem Shalom), a border crossing with Israel, was stopped on Tuesday when Israel closed the crossing, citing a mortar attack in the area.

The move on Tuesday came shortly after the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced the temporary opening of the border crossing for the delivery of aid.

The COGAT said in a statement later that the border crossing was closed after an Israeli soldier was slightly injured in the attack.

“After a firing of mortar bombs towards the Kerem Shalom Crossing … it has been decided to stop the entry of the rest of the trucks,” said COGAT.

Earlier, Karl Schembri, media adviser for the Middle East at the Norwegian Refugee Council, told Al Jazeera that Gaza would be “suffocated” if the Keram Abu Salem and Beit Hanoon (Erez) crossings were kept shut.

“It is absolutely essential that the crossings are open,” Schembri said.

“These people don’t just need essential items, they now need vital humanitarian assistance. And Israel needs to give assurance that these items will be given safe passage.”

Schembri also said that there needed to be humanitarian corridors and ceasefires so that the workers could get in and assess the needs of the people.

“No deliveries can be made while the bombings continue,” he said.

Also on Tuesday, the United Nations aid agency said more than 52,000 Palestinians have now been displaced by Israeli air strikes that have destroyed or badly damaged nearly 450 buildings in the Gaza Strip.

About 47,000 of the displaced people have sought shelter in 58 UN-run schools in Gaza, Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva, told reporters.

Laerke said 132 buildings were destroyed and 316 were severely damaged, including six hospitals and nine primary healthcare centres as well as a desalination plant, affecting access to drinking water for about 250,000 people.

There is a severe shortage of medical supplies, a risk of water-borne diseases and the spread of COVID-19 because of displaced people crowding into schools, said Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization.

London-based rights group Amnesty International called for an investigation into air strikes on residential buildings in Gaza.

“Israeli forces have displayed a shocking disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians by carrying out a number of airstrikes targeting residential buildings, in some cases killing entire families – including children – and causing wanton destruction to civilian property, in attacks that may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity,” Amnesty said.

Amnesty said it documented four deadly attacks by Israel launched on residential homes without prior warning and called on the International Criminal Court to investigate.

It said Israeli strikes on May 11 destroyed two residential buildings belonging to the Abu al-Ouf and al-Kolaq families, killing 30 people, 11 of them children.

A woman and her three children were killed on May 14 when the al-Atar family’s three-storey building was hit, it said.

It added that the home of Nader Mahmoud Mohammed Al-Thom, where he lived with eight others, was attacked without warning on May 15.

At least 213 Palestinians, including 61 children, have been killed in Gaza since the attacks began. About 1,500 Palestinians have been wounded.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies