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Gaza: Israel closes key crossing point, preventing workers from going to their jobs

Thousands of Palestinian workers have been prevented from going to work as Israel closes Erez crossing point amid escalating tensions
Israel has closed the Erez border crossing for a 'security assessment' (AFP)

Israeli forces closed crossing points with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, leaving thousands of Palestinians unable to go to work in Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Israel announced last week that it would shut down the key Erez crossing for a "security assessment".

The move comes after a recent flare up of tensions along the separation fence, where Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian on 19 July, leaving 11 others wounded, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

The Israeli army says that hundreds of "rioters" have gathered near the fence and "a number of explosive devices were activated".

In recent days, Palestinians have been holding protests over the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and raids on the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque.

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The closure of the crossing points has left around 18,000 Palestinians unable to cross for work, depriving the blockaded strip's already ailing economy.  

Israeli NGO Gisha denounced the closure of the crossing as a form of "collective punishment".

"Blocking travel through Erez in response to demonstrations by Gaza's perimeter fence constitutes illegal collective punishment, harming Gaza workers and their families, as well as other permit holders who need to travel for humanitarian needs," the organisation said in a statement. 

The organisation also penned a letter to Israel's Minister of Defense, calling the decision "illegal" and a "blatant violation of the law".

"The intention and result of the decision is to cause deliberate harm to the civilian population, stemming from prohibited, punitive objectives and constituting abuse of your control over the crossings," the letter stated.

This year is shaping up to be one of the bloodiest in the occupied West Bank. According to a tally by Middle East Eye, at least 222 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces this year, including 38 children. 

A total of 185 people have died in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Another 37 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip.

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