Ramallah, Tel Aviv – Hamas authorities partially reopened the crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel Monday after a one-day closure following the assassination of one of the group’s prominent officials.
Hamas shut the border crossing on Sunday and prevented people from going out for the first time since it seized control of the Strip in 2007.
The Interior Ministry in Gaza, run by the Hamas movement, said it was shutting the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing for an indefinite period as it investigates the murder of Mazen Faqha on Friday.
“From Monday morning, travel through the Erez crossing will be permitted temporarily for some categories,” said Iyad al-Bozum, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry in the Palestinian enclave.
Anyone would be allowed to enter Gaza, Bozum said in a statement, but those leaving would remain restricted to senior politicians, the sick and families of prisoners.
Faqha, 38, was shot dead by unknown gunmen Friday as Hamas officials blamed the Israeli Intelligence Agency (Mossad) and its “collaborators.”
Suspecting that local collaborators with Israel were involved, Hamas has since deployed dozens of checkpoints across the Gaza Strip where drivers were asked to turn on their interior lights and hand over IDs for inspection.
The closing of Erez was also applied to journalists, aid workers and patients needing medical help in Israel.
Hamas said that Faqha, a leader of the Qassam Brigades, was shot by four bullets to the head from a pistol equipped with a silencer.
According to Hamas, Faqha formed cells for the group’s military wing in the West Bank cities of Tubas, where he was born, and Jenin.
It said he played an important role in preparing two major attacks, including a suicide attack in the Israeli settlement neighborhood of Gilo in east Jerusalem in 2002, which killed 19 people.
The second was a suicide bus attack later that year that killed nine people in the northern Israeli city of Safed.
They were part of a wave of suicide attacks that killed hundreds of Israelis during the second intifada, or uprising, between 2000 and 2005.
Israel sentenced him to nine life sentences plus 50 years, but he was released in 2011 along with more than 1,000 other Palestinians in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier Hamas had detained for five years, and was transferred to Gaza.
Faqha’s funeral on Saturday drew thousands of Hamas supporters into the streets with chants of “revenge” and “death to Israel.”
Ismail Haniya, until recently head of Hamas in Gaza, and Yahya Sinwar, who replaced him as leader, headed the procession.
The Erez crossing is the only one between Gaza and Israel that allows the passage of people.
Another crossing with Israel, Kerem Shalom, is used for goods and remained open on Sunday, Palestinian officials said.