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Israel partially reopens Gaza goods crossing

Opening comes as protester injured on 14 May dies from his wounds, marking at least 150 Palestinians to have been killed by Israeli forces since 30 March
The coastal strip suffers from a severe lack of electricity and relies on fuel-powered generators during outages (AFP)

Israel has partially reopened its only goods crossing with the blockaded Gaza Strip after closing it on 9 July in part over kites carrying firebombs being sent from the enclave to burn Israeli farmland.

Many Palestinians in Gaza see the incendiary kites and balloons as legitimate resistance against Israel's more than 10-year blockade.

Fuel trucks began entering through the Karam Abu Salem crossing at noon, while food and medicine deliveries that had not been subject to the closure were set to continue.

"Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided that Kerem Shalom [known to Palestinians as Karam Abu Salem] will partially reopen and as of today at 12:00 pm (0900 GMT) it will be possible to transfer gas and fuel into the Gaza Strip, in addition to food and medicine," Lieberman's office had said earlier.

The statement noted that the number of kites and balloons carrying firebombs into Israeli territory had been reduced, but not totally eliminated. It said the crossing could return to full activity soon "conditioned on the full cessation of fire-balloon launches and friction on the fence".

The move follows urgent warnings from United Nations officials that emergency fuel supplies are running low in the Gaza Strip and that the shortage was further affecting hospitals and water sanitation.

Palestinian dies from wounds

The partial opening came as Majd Suheil Aaqil became one of at least 150 Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces since the "Great March of Return" demonstrations which began on 30 March.

Aaqil, 26, died on Tuesday from wounds sustained on 14 May during protests east of Jabaliya, against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, the Gaza health ministry said.

More than 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in protests in Gaza on the day of the embassy's inauguration on 14 May.

Palestinians have been demonstrating since 30 March in Gaza, calling for their right to return to the homes and land their families were expelled from seven decades ago during the creation of the state of Israel.

Since the Great March of Return began, Israeli forces have killed at least 150 Palestinians and wounded more than 16,000 people, according to Gaza health officials.

Israel has tightened its already crippling blockade of Gaza in recent weeks as it seeks to pressure Hamas to end the incendiary kites and balloons.

On 17 July, it further tightened the restrictions to prevent fuel deliveries while reducing the fishing zone Israel enforces off Gaza to three nautical miles from six.

The crossing has remained open for food and medicine on a case-by-case basis.

Despite Hamas's instructions to its members to stop sending kites, kite fliers unaffiliated with the group have rejected the call, vowing to continue until the Israeli-led blockade on Gaza is lifted.

Palestinians view the inexpensive flying devices to be a tool of resistance against the well-armed Israeli forces stationed behind the fence that have killed scores of protesters and wounded thousands.

Lives will be at stake

Gaza suffers from a severe lack of electricity and relies on fuel-powered generators during outages that last hours at a time. On Monday, the power company in Gaza said that the Strip was going without power for 18 hours a day instead of 16 hours.

"We are trying to supply a minimal level of four hours a day of electricity to Gaza residents, but that too is in doubt, so the duration of the cut will extend beyond 16 hours a day," Mohammed Tahbet, a spokesman for the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company, told Haaretz newspaper.

The enclave's supply relies on six power lines from Israel, one of which has been out of commission for a week, in addition to power supplied by Egypt.

A ceasefire called by Hamas, which governs Gaza, on Saturday has continued to hold following a wave of deadly Israeli air strikes across the Gaza Strip the previous day.

The death of an Israeli soldier shot by Palestinian fighters had further intensified Israeli air strikes across Gaza, the second spate of strikes in as many weeks.

The Israeli soldier, shot dead along the border in southern Gaza, was the first to be killed in or around the Palestinian enclave since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.

Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, said on Sunday that "supplies of emergency fuel provided by the UN for critical facilities in Gaza are being fast depleted".

He called on Israel to end restrictions on fuel imports and warned hospitals could soon be forced to close, with emergency supplies set to run out in early August.

"Given ongoing blackouts of about 20 hours a day, if fuel does not come in immediately, people’s lives will be at stake, with the most vulnerable patients, like cardiac patients, those on dialysis, and newborns in intensive care, at highest risk," he said in a statement.