Israel eases restrictions on Gaza Strip following ‘relative calm’

Israel eases restrictions on Gaza Strip following ‘relative calm’

Israel on Tuesday cancelled punitive measures it had imposed against the besieged Gaza Strip after a weekend wave of attacks with rockets and incendiary balloons by militants in the Palestinian enclave.

“In view of the relative calm around Gaza in recent days,” the defense ministry said it had decided “to reinstate the civilian measures that were suspended last weekend.”

“As long as calm is maintained, Israel will extend the fishing zone to 15 nautical miles (on Wednesday) and issue 2,000 new permits” for Gaza residents to enter Israel, said a statement by COGAT, the ministry’s unit in charge of civilian affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Israeli air force had attacked Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip on Saturday in retaliation for rocket fire from the enclave into Israel, a previous army statement said.

Following the rocket fire, Israel announced it would cancel a previous slight easing of the blockade on the Gaza Strip, reducing the zone in which it allows Palestinians in the coastal territory to fish.

The exchange of fire between both sides has escalated since last month after US President Donald Trump unveiled his Middle East peace plan, rejected by the Palestinians as a capitulation to Israeli objectives.

Islamist movement Hamas has controlled Gaza since 2007 and Israel holds it responsible for all fire emanating from the Strip.

The two sides have fought three wars since 2008 but over the past year, Hamas had gradually shaped an informal truce with Israel, under which Israel has eased its crippling blockade of Gaza.

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