Violence ‘Significantly Reduced,’ Israel Re-opens Gaza’s Pedestrian Crossing
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman ordered the re-opening on Monday of the Erez border crossing, the sole pedestrian passage between Israel and the Gaza Strip. In a statement, the Defense Ministry cited as the reason for its decision “the security calm that was upheld over the past week and the significantly reduced [number] of [violent] incidents.” Relative quiet has been restored to the frontier following months of deadly clashes prompted by the so-called “March of Return” protests, as well as a major uptick in rocket fire from Gaza and retaliatory Israeli air strikes on Hamas terror targets. The current, albeit fragile, calm is prevailing despite the inability to date—through United Nations and Egyptian mediation—to formalize a comprehensive cease-fire agreement between the sides. The ongoing effort was temporarily put on hold during the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday last week, but reportedly has restarted. The goal is to reach a long-term truce deal that would include an immediate and complete cessation of hostilities; the easing of restrictions and possibly the lifting of the blockade on Gaza; and, eventually, a prisoner swap and the economic rehabilitation of the Palestinian enclave. Many analysts view Israel’s opening and closing of the border crossings with Gaza—including Kerem Shalom, through which goods and humanitarian aid are transited into the Palestinian territory—as barometer of how negotiations are progressing and as a litmus test for the likelihood of a military escalation.