Israel halts Gaza exports after explosives smuggling claim

Bombs found hidden in clothing delivery lorries at Kerem Shalom crossing, army claims

Lorries wait to cross at Kerem Shalom in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. AFP
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Exports from Gaza to Israel – already limited and controlled by a years-long blockade – were halted on Monday evening after the Israeli army claimed it had stopped an attempt to smuggle explosives.

The army said that exports would resume following an investigation. As many as 200 lorries a month leave Gaza, mostly carrying agricultural produce to the Israeli occupied West Bank, departing through the Kerem Shalom crossing.

The number of vehicles able to leave Gaza has fluctuated sharply, particularly in times of conflict, after the imposition of the blockade in 2007, when militant group Hamas took control of the densely populated enclave.

Officers from the Defence Ministry, which controls crossings between Israel and Gaza, “detected several kilograms of high quality explosives, hidden within a clothing delivery" on board three lorries at the Kerem Shalom crossing, the army said.

Army chief of staff Herzi Halevi, with approval from Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, ordered the halting of “commercial deliveries from Gaza to Israel, allowing security adjustments to be made at the crossing”.

“Deliveries will resume in accordance with subsequent situation assessments,” the army added.

Israel “will not allow terror organisations to take advantage of civilian and humanitarian facilities for terror purposes”, it said.

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

Monday's development comes at a time of raging tensions in the occupied West Bank.

Violence from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has surged and killed at least 225 Palestinians this year.

Thirty-two Israelis, a Ukrainian and an Italian have also died, according to an AFP tally based on official sources on both sides.

They include, on the Palestinian side, combatants as well as civilians and, on the Israeli side, three members of the Arab minority.

Updated: September 05, 2023, 4:56 AM