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Hamas closes Gaza crossing

March 4, 2013 4:46 P.M. (Updated: March 7, 2013 4:53 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Hamas government in Gaza closed the Kerem Shalom crossing on Monday, despite the fact Israel had agreed to reopen it after a one week closure.

Israel closed the commercial crossing last Tuesday after a rocket was fired from Gaza toward Ashkelon in southern Israel, but agreed to reopen it Monday.

However, the border remained closed on the Palestinian side.

Officials in Gaza, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the issue, said the Hamas government in Gaza has fired the company that operates the terminal after a dispute over the collection of customs revenue.

The officials told Ma'an that Hamas wants to keep the taxes, which are usually paid to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Hamas has decided to appoint a new company to run the terminal, they said.

Truck drivers at Kerem Shalom told Ma'an that rivalries over control of the crossing were impeding their work, adding that they hoped the terminal would reopen soon.

Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Eitan Dangot has told PA officials that Israel considers Hamas' appointment of a new company to run Kerem Shalom a security risk, the Israeli news site Ynet reported Monday.

Israel cooperated with the previous contractor because he operated the crossing on behalf of the PA, Ynet reported, noting that Israel will not coordinate with Hamas.

Ynet said that Hamas was demanding a tax of 170 shekels (around $46) for each truck that enters Gaza, to make up for lost profits from tunnel revenue after Cairo cracked down on smuggling under the Egyptian border.

Erez crossing

Meanwhile, Hamas is imposing new restrictions at the Erez crossing, the only passenger terminal on the Israeli border.

The government in Gaza announced Wednesday that residents must seek permission from the Ministry of Interior to enter Israel via the Erez crossing.

Palestinians already needed a permit from Israel to cross Erez.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights criticized Hamas' decision.

"Freedom of movement is already severely restricted by Israel; travelers have to wait many hours before being allowed to pass through the crossing and they are subjected to humiliating treatment," PCHR said in a statement.

The Gaza-based group noted that Israeli authorities usually only granted Palestinians permits a few hours prior to their departure, and often the permits are only valid for one day.

"This makes it impossible for them to refer to the Ministry of Interior to obtain prior approval for their travel," PCHR said.
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