JERUSALEM (Rahnuma) UN peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov on Tuesday voiced concerns over Israel’s decision to impose fresh sanctions on the blockaded Gaza Strip.
“I’m concerned by the consequences of Israel’s decision to temporarily suspend imports and exports with the exception of basic humanitarian supplies through the Kerem Shalom crossing,” Mladenov said in a statement.
“Humanitarian assistance is no substitute for commerce and trade. I urge the authorities to reverse this decision,” he said.
On Monday, Israel imposed fresh sanctions on the Palestinian territory, including restrictions on the movement of goods and a reduction of the area off Gaza’s coast in which Palestinian fishermen are allowed to ply their trade.
According to a statement released by the Israeli army, the Kerem Shalom border crossing will be closed in response to “incendiary kite attacks” by Palestinian activists.
The military statement did not say how long the crossing — which had served as Gaza’s only functioning commercial crossing — would remain closed.
The UN envoy called on Palestinian group Hamas and other factions in Gaza to do their part by “maintaining calm, stopping incendiary kites and preventing other provocations”.
The UN “is continuing its engagement with Israeli and Palestinian counterparts, as well as regional and international partners, to reduce tensions, support intra-Palestinian reconciliation and resolve all humanitarian challenges,” Mladenov said.
In recent weeks, Palestinian activists have been flying incendiary kites and balloons over Israeli territory as part of ongoing popular demonstrations near the Gaza-Israel security fence.
Since the demonstrations began on March 30, at least 137 Palestinian protesters have been martyred — and thousands more injured — by Israeli army gunfire.
Protesters demand the “right of return” to their homes and villages in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.
They also demand an end to Israel’s 11-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of basic commodities.