Israel Tightens Gaza Blockade as Cross-border Fire Continues

Israel announced on Saturday several new restrictions on the Gaza Strip, after rockets and explosives were fired from the Palestinian enclave at southern Israel over the past week.

Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon said no cement will be allowed into Gaza and 500 entry permits for Palestinian merchants will be suspended as of Sunday morning “until further notice.”

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Several projectiles and incendiary balloons were launched from Gaza at Israel in past days, as well as Israeli air force attacks on Hamas targets in the Strip.

A projectile was fired at border communities near Gaza on Saturday evening, causing no casualties or damage. Several hours later, the military said it hit several Hamas targets in the Strip, including a building serving as a militant headquarters.  

Following the unveiling of U.S. President Donald Trump's peace plan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that the Palestinian Authority has cut all ties with the United States and Israel, including security cooperation. The Trump plan, which proposes Israeli annexation of large swaths of West Bank territory alongside a disjointed and demilitarized Palestinian state, had brought rival Palestinian factions together in a rare show of unity. 

Israel and Hamas were reportedly approaching a deal of long-term quiet following a round of violence in November. Thirty-four Palestinians, including 16 civilians, were killed in the fighting, precipitated by Israel's assassination of Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata.

At the time, the Israel Defense Forces’ General Staff supported some measures to relieve the Gaza blockade in exchange for assurances of quiet. The final decision, however, rested with the political echelon, mired in a crisis centered around the March 2 election and three corruption indictments against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.