Hamas fortifying border amid threats to strike Israel over commander’s assassination


(JTA) — Hamas is adding to its fortifications in Gaza near the border with Israel amid threats by the terrorist group to retaliate for the assassination of one of its commanders.

Mazen Fuqaha, a West Bank commander whom Israel released in a prisoner swap in 2011 and exiled to the Gaza Strip, was shot dead in a killing that Hamas blames on Israel. The Israeli government declined to comment on the incident.

In response, Hamas shut down the Erez Crossing, which is used to transport goods from Israel into the Gaza Strip and functions as the main entry point into Israel for those with permits, including for medical treatments.

Hamas also reinforced its fortifications and roadblocks near the border with Israel, Army Radio reported Friday. The group deployed four roadblocks on roads leading into the strip from the Erez Crossing, the report said.

The preparations come amid speculation in the Israel media on Hamas’ willingness to enter a new round of hostilities with Israel following the assassination.

Gisha, an Israeli organization that advocates for easing the restrictions preventing Palestinians from leaving the Gaza Strip, condemned the closure of the Erez Crossing by Hamas.

“Gazans who are already pushed to the brink of endurance because of the Israeli blockade, which has recently been tightened, are now confronted with another blockage,” the group wrote in a statement.

The closure has reduced the number of Palestinians with urgent medical needs able to enter Israel daily to an average of 73 from approximately 300 in February, Army Radio reported.

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