July 18, 2018, 8:13 pm
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Israel closes Gaza border crossings after Palestinian rocket strikes

JERUSALEM. – Israel announced the closure of its Gaza border crossings on Thursday in response to daily rocket fire from the enclave over the past week after US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital stoked Palestinian anger.

Israeli aircraft struck three facilities belonging to Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, before dawn on Thursday after the latest rocket attacks, Israel’s military said.

It said it targeted training camps and weapons storage compounds. Hamas usually evacuates such facilities when border tensions spike.

Two of the rockets fired by militants were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system and a third exploded in an open area. There were no reports of casualties on either side of the frontier.

The military said in a statement that “due to the security events and in accordance with security assessments” Kerem Shalom crossing – the main passage point for goods entering the Gaza Strip, and the Erez pedestrian crossing – would be shut as of Thursday. It did not say how long the closure would last.

Some 15 rockets have been fired into southern Israel since Trump’s Dec. 6 announcement, and none of the projectiles has caused serious injury or damage.

The attacks have drawn Israeli air strikes that have killed two Hamas gunmen. Two other Palestinians have been killed in confrontations with Israeli troops during stone-throwing protests along the border.

Israeli cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi said on Israel Radio that while Hamas, which last fought a war with Israel in 2014, was not carrying out the rocket strikes, it needed to rein in militants from “breakaway groups” or it would “find itself in a situation where it has to contend” with the Israeli military.

In Istanbul on Wednesday, a summit of more than 50 Muslim countries condemned Trump’s move and called on the world to respond by recognising East Jerusalem, captured by Israel along with the West Bank in a 1967 war, as the capital of Palestine.

Trump’s declaration has been applauded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as recognition of political reality and Jews’s biblical links to Jerusalem, a city that is also holy to Muslims and Christians. – Reuters
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