Israel tightens blockade of Gaza Strip

Palestinian Hamas security forces stand at the Palestinian side of the Erez pedestrian crossing with Israel after it was closed

Palestinian Hamas security forces stand at the Palestinian side of the Erez pedestrian crossing with Israel after it was closed

Israel has tightened its years-long blockade of the coastal Gaza Strip by closing a pedestrian crossing into the Palestinian enclave.

Arab media reported overnight that Israel had delivered a message to the Gaza Strip residents that the Erez crossing would not be opened Sunday, except in special humanitarian cases.

Two were killed in violent clashes with the IDF in several locations along the border fence.

The regime has routinely closed the crossing, banning the entry of humanitarian supplies and other goods into Gaza.

The closure and border incidents occurred despite attempts by Egypt and United Nations officials to reach a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the blockaded Gaza Strip.

The draft of a truce between Israel and Hamas has triggered deteriorating ties between Egypt and the PA.

Separately on Sunday, US President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton arrived in Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a time of shared concerns over Syria, Iran and the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian official explained the reason for the closure was a demonstration organised by Palestinians on Saturday near Gaza's northern border, as well as the continuing Great March of Return, the Palestinian protest campaign against the state of Israel.

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Previous witness reports had indicated that about five shots were fired following a heated exchange between a group of students. The gender and age of the victims, as well as information about a suspect, had not been confirmed.

Palestinian health officials claim 170 Palestinians have been shot by the Israeli military since the protests began.

The renewed protests came during a period of relative calm in Gaza after two months that saw several bouts of fierce fighting which brought the two sides to the brink of all-out war on at least three separate occasions in the past two months.

Egypt's intelligence chief made a flying visit to Israel last Wednesday, an Israeli official confirmed, as internationally-brokered talks to thrash out a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas intensify.

A top Hamas official interviewed by Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen TV said Friday that the negotiations were in their "final stretch."

Israel has also previously refused to enter into any negotiations with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas, which it considers a terror organization.

He said that United Nations and Egyptian talks taking place in Egypt with various Palestinian factions have "taken a big step forward towards understandings with the occupation. and the possibility of restoring calm".

Israeli radio quoted a senior Palestinian source in Ramallah as saying that Abbas will stop transferring funds to the Gaza Strip if Hamas signs a truce agreement.

Hamas and Abbas's Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank, have been deeply divided for more than a decade.

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