Defense minister opens Gaza crossings as tensions subside

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced Sunday morning that he will reopen the Kerem Shalom and Erez border crossings.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman announced Sunday morning that he will reopen the Kerem Shalom and Erez border crossings, allowing supplies to enter the Gaza Strip.

Liberman’s decision came after Palestinian organizers of the ongoing mass riots on the Gaza-Israel border ordered their people to keep their distance from the border fence and to protest in a non-violent manner.

“The March of Return is continuing until its goals are attained, with an emphasis on the importance of holding marches that will be non-violent and led by the people,” one of the organizers, Khaled al-Batsh, a top leader in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad,  said in a statement late last week.

The “March of Return” is the term Hamas and other terrorist leaders have given to the riots, in which demonstrators hurl stones and Molotov cocktails, plant explosives and infiltrate into Israel, sometimes torching Israeli Army positions and equipment.

Al-Batsh and other terrorist leaders justified their change in tactics as a way to give another Egyptian mediators another chance to bring about a ceasefire.

Egypt also reportedly warned the Palestinian leadership in Gaza that if they continued their violence they would risk a harsh Israeli response.

Palestinian leaders may have also been convinced to reduce tensions following a marathon-long overnight meeting of Israel’s Security Cabinet which lasted into the early hours of Thursday morning last week.

The session came in reaction to a missile launched into a Beersheba home that nearly killed a mother and her three children.

Following that meeting, Minister of Housing Yoav Galant, former head of Israel’s southern command, warned of a sea change in Israeli policy. He told Channel Two news “I can say one thing very explicitly – the rules of the game are about to change.

“We will no longer accept the arson terror and the border terror,” he said.

According to reports, the events this weekend were to play a major role in determining whether Israel launched a military operation into Gaza. But Israel’s military noted the demonstrations were much calmer than usual and reported that the protesters stayed away from Israel’s border fence.

Likud Knesset Member Yoav Kish said, “We were very close to making a decision to significantly escalate the situation in Gaza,” he said. “I assume that this is one of the last attempts at an agreement.”

“The blow to Hamas will come. It’s just a question of when – and it’s not worthwhile to fall into [the trap of going according to] their timetable.”

TPS contributed to this report.