Israel shut down its main cargo crossing to the Gaza Strip and deployed a missile-defense system the day after a Palestinian sniper shot dead a Defense Ministry employee at the border.
The shooting yesterday drew an immediate Israeli air and artillery assault that killed a Gaza girl. The violence was part of a broader flare in fighting that has complicated U.S.- mediated peace talks between Israel and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.
“It’s connected to the diplomatic process,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in an e-mailed statement. “We will respond harshly” if the Hamas rulers of Gaza don’t stop the attacks.
Israel deployed its Iron Dome defense system to shoot down rockets that may be fired from Gaza at nearby cities and towns, Ya’alon said. The Kerem Shalom terminal on the Gaza border will remain closed indefinitely, the defense ministry said yesterday in a text message to reporters.
Ihab al-Hussein, a spokesman for Gaza’s Hamas rulers, denounced the move in an e-mailed statement, calling it “collective punishment” that deprives the territory of urgently needed fuel.
Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and European Union for carrying out deadly attacks on Israeli targets.