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Palestinians condemn Israeli move to close Gaza Strip crossing

Israeli officials said Palestinian workers and merchants from Gaza would be prevented from crossing from Sunday
Palestinian farmers pick strawberries for export at a farm near the Erez crossing with Israel in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip on 23 February 2022 (AFP)

Israel is set to close the crossing into the Gaza Strip from Sunday in what it said was a response to rockets fired overnight from the besieged enclave.

The rockets, which caused no injuries, were launched following days of violence around occupied East Jerusalem after a series of Israeli incursions into al-Aqsa Mosque, which began at the start of Ramadan.

"Following the rockets fired towards Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip last night, it was decided that crossings into Israel for Gazan merchants and workers through the Erez Crossing will not be permitted this upcoming Sunday," Cogat, a unit of the Israeli defence ministry responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, said in a statement on Saturday.

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"The re-opening of the crossing will be decided in accordance with a security situational assessment," Cogat added in its statement, implying that further rocket attacks would extend the penalty.

Al Jazeera reported that the Gaza workers union had described the closure as “collective punishment” and were angered at the timing of the closure, not long before the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Friday's latest storming of al-Aqsa was the seventh in eight days carried out by Israeli forces inside the mosque.

More than 170 Palestinians have been wounded in the continued assaults and more than 450 were arrested. 

Palestinians have been outraged by a massive Israeli police deployment and repeated visits by Israeli settlers to pray at the holy site.

Two rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel on Friday night, one entering the country and the other falling short and striking near a residential building in northern Gaza, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.

A third rocket was fired at Israel on Saturday morning, the Israeli army said, with no air raid sirens activated for any of the launches.

UN calls for investigation

Al-Aqsa is Islam's third-holiest site, and the most sacred site in Judaism.

By long-standing convention, non-Muslim tourists are allowed to visit under certain conditions and the approval of the Waqf, an Islamic trust that manages the affairs of the mosque, but only Muslims are allowed to pray there.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said 57 people were wounded at al-Aqsa on Friday, with footage on social media showing police using a drone to spray tear gas at worshippers from the air.

Walid al-Sharif, a 21-year-old resident of Jerusalem's Old City, is reported to be in a coma after being wounded by Israeli police on Friday.

The escalating unrest has prompted concern at the United Nations, which on Thursday demanded a probe into the actions of Israeli police.

"The use of force by Israeli police resulting in widespread injuries among worshippers and staff in and around the al-Aqsa mosque compound must be promptly, impartially, independently and transparently investigated," said Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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