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Israel Closes Sole People Crossing with Gaza after 'Riot'

The Israeli army said Wednesday it was closing its sole crossing for people with the Gaza Strip following a violent demonstration the previous day, just 10 days after it reopened it.

"Yesterday, a violent riot was instigated in the area of the Erez crossing, with the participation of hundreds of Palestinian rioters," the Israeli army said in a statement.

"Subsequently, it was decided to close the Erez crossing until the damage caused by the rioters will be repaired."

The Palestinians were protesting against a U.S. announcement on Friday that it would cease all funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) which helps some three million needy refugees.

Washington, which until last year was by far the biggest contributor to the UNRWA, had already plunged the nearly 70-year-old agency into financial crisis in January with its announcement of a $300 million funding freeze.

In Gaza, most children attend UNRWA-run schools whose funding beyond the end of this month is now in doubt, along with that of the agency's network of clinics and food distribution centers.

The Israeli army said Tuesday's protesters had damaged the infrastructure of the crossing with rocks thrown from the Gaza side.

It said it would remain open for "individually approved humanitarian cases."

An AFP correspondent said several thousand Gazans passed the Palestinian Authority checkpoint at Erez during Tuesday's protest and headed to the Israeli side, where they caused damage to lights and the road surface.

The Israeli army eventually forced them back, using tear gas and live ammunition. Five Palestinians suffered gunshot wounds, the Gaza health ministry said.

Israel reopened Erez on August 27 after an 11-day closure following previous clashes, as part of its policy of easing its decade-long air, land and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip when calm is maintained.

The sole goods crossing between Israel and Gaza, Kerem Shalom, remains open.

There have been months of tension along the border and several military flare-ups, but recent weeks have seen relative calm.

Egyptian and United Nations officials have been mediating indirect negotiations on a long-term truce between Israel and Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas, who have fought three wars since 2008.

Source: Agence France Presse


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