Israel opens main Gaza crossing

Israel's new defense minister on Wednesday reopened the main cargo crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, signaling a policy shift aimed at easing some of Israel's security restrictions on the Palestinians.

Israel had kept the Karni crossing closed for much of the year, citing warnings that Palestinian militants were trying to attack the site, Gaza's lifeline.

The decision by Defense Minister Amir Peretz, leader of the dovish Labor Party, signaled a change in policy toward the Palestinians, the military officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because a formal announcement had not been made. Peretz is trying to ease some Israeli restrictions on the Palestinians, they said.

The crossing had been closed in both directions since April 4. It has been closed for a total of 55 days since Jan. 1.

Every day, the Palestinian economy loses at least $1.5 million when Karni is closed, according to PalTrade, a coalition of Palestinian business people that monitors trade.

Karni has been a target of attacks by Palestinian militants.

On April 26, five Palestinians were injured when militants tried to ram an explosives-laden car into Karni on the Palestinian side. Militants also tried to bomb the crossing in a Feb. 21 explosion. Israeli security said it feared more attacks on the crossing were planned.

Palestinians rely on the crossing for exports, especially fruits and vegetables they grow in the hot, coastal area. They also import much of their food through Karni, including dairy products and flour, reports the AP.


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