Israel places new limitations on cargo crossing into Gaza
JERUSALEM — Israel placed new restrictions on its only cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday in response to continued Hamas hostilities, even after it agreed to a cease-fire ending 24 hours of intense fighting.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel will cease transferring gas and fuel through the Kerem Shalom crossing until Sunday but will allow food and essential medication to cross. Commercial cargo was suspended last week.
Lieberman also said Israel was tightening its naval blockade to limit Palestinians from sailing beyond three nautical miles off Gaza’s coast. Israel previously allowed sailing up to six nautical miles.
Even after Hamas, Gaza’s militant rulers, agreed to a cease-fire late Saturday, incendiary kites and balloons have continued to float from Gaza into Israel setting off damaging fires to farmlands. Israel has stepped up strikes since then to signal its new threshold for engagement after months of largely refraining to act.
One incendiary balloon landed in the yard of a kindergarten in southern Israel on Tuesday, prompting evacuation of children and causing some damage to the yard. No injuries were reported, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
‘‘The Israeli army is prepared and ready for any mission we give it,’’ Lieberman said during a visit to the border area Tuesday. ‘‘If we are required to launch a campaign we can overcome any enemy. The army knows what to do, how to do it and when to do it. We will dictate the rules of the game and no one else.’’
Speaking at the same border visit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ‘‘the Israeli military is prepared for any scenario.’’
The United Nations expressed concern over the crossing restrictions.
‘‘Particularly worrying is the impact that shortfalls in fuel will have on the provision of critical health, water and sanitation services in Gaza,’’ UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said in a statement.
Israel pounded Hamas targets on Saturday in its most massive bombardment since the 2014 war, while militants fired dozens of rockets toward Israel that halted daily life in the area. Two Palestinian teenagers were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, while four Israelis were wounded from a rocket that landed on a home in Sderot.
Israel says it has no interest is engaging in another war with Hamas, but says it will no longer tolerate the Gaza militant campaign of flying incendiary kites and balloons across the border that have ignited fires damaging Israeli farms and nature reserves.