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Israel to end suspension of Gaza exports on Sunday

Goods will be again allowed to be exported from the Gaza Strip on Sunday, a week after Israeli authorities suspended shipments in response to an attempt to smuggle explosives from the Hamas-run territory to terror groups in the West Bank.

In a statement, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) — a Defense Ministry body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs — said that after “security adjustments” were made at the Kerem Shalom crossing, and lessons from the smuggling attempt were implemented, it would reopen for exports on Sunday at 6:00 a.m.

On Monday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi ordered a halt to commercial deliveries from Gaza to Israel after several kilograms of “high-quality” explosive material were found hidden in a shipment of clothes. The move was approved by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

The Defense Ministry said that according to initial assessments, the explosives were intended to be used for terror activity in the West Bank.

“The defense establishment will not allow terror elements to take advantage of the civilian and humanitarian channel in the Gaza Strip for the needs of military force buildup and acts of terror,” the ministry and COGAT said.

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Palestinian businesses have claimed that the Israeli decision to suspend exports put the Gaza Strip at risk of a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

Explosives caught by Israeli authorities at Kerem Shalom Crossing, September 4, 2023. (Defense Ministry)

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli-led blockade since the Islamist terror group Hamas seized power in a bloody coup in 2007. Israel says the blockade, which is also enforced by neighboring Egypt, is needed to prevent the terror group, which openly seeks Israel’s destruction and has fired thousands of rockets at Israeli cities, from arming.

The Kerem Shalom crossing is the only point of entry for goods between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The Israeli suspension comes with tensions raging across the region amid a string of Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank that have left 27 civilians and three soldiers dead, and several others seriously wounded since the beginning of the year.

According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 180 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during the same period — most of them during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances, including by armed Israeli settlers.

Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Australia, Britain, Israel and the European Union.

AFP contributed to this report.