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Israel is tightening its blockade on Gaza by stopping fuel deliveries

Hamas described the stoppage of fuel deliveries as a 'crime against humanity'
At least 139 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since May during protests to end the Israeli blockade on Gaza (MEE/Mohammed al-Hajjar)

Israel has further tightened its blockade on the Gaza Strip and stopped fuel deliveries from entering the Palestinian enclave. 

The Israeli defence ministry announced the move on Monday evening in a bid to stop balloons and kites flown into southern Israel. 

The stoppage of fuel deliveries is expected to end on Sunday, the defence ministry said in a statement. 

Israel had also announced plans to reduce Gaza's designated fishing zone from six nautical miles off the Gaza Strip to three. 

The goods crossing, known as Kerem Shalom, will remain open for food and medicine on a case-by-case basis.

"In light of the continued terror efforts of Hamas, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has decided, after consulting with the chief of (military) staff, to close Kerem Shalom for the passage of fuel and gas until Sunday," a statement said.

Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, condemned the move and called the initial closing last week a "crime against humanity".

Palestinians in Gaza view the balloons and kites as legitimate resistance against Israel's more than a decade-long blockade.

Since May protests began along the Gaza buffer zone to end the blockade, at least 139 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, according to the Gaza health ministry. 

The closed crossing is the only one between Gaza and Israel for goods transport. 

A separate crossing, known as Erez, is for people - though Palestinians need an Israeli permit to cross, even if they are heading to the occupied West Bank.

Gaza's only other functioning border crossing, Rafah, is with Egypt. The Rafah crossing has been mostly kept closed in recent years, but Egypt has opened it since mid-May.

There were reports in Israeli media of Egypt moving to close the Rafah crossing, but no confirmation.

Israeli authorities say the hundreds of kites and balloons sent over the border fence from Gaza have caused significant damage to farms in the area.

A spokesman for Israel's fire service says around 750 fires have burned some 2,600 hectares, estimating the damage at millions of shekels (hundreds of thousands of dollars or euros).

The tightening of the blockade comes after the heaviest exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war on Saturday.

Israel carried out air strikes partially in response to the months of fires started by the kite firebombs, but also over continuing protests and clashes along the Gaza border.

Israel hit dozens of sites it said belonged to militants in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing two Palestinian teenagers.

The same day, around 200 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from the Hamas-run enclave, and four Israelis were wounded when a rocket hit a house in the nearby Israeli city of Sderot.