Benjamin Netanyahu cancels Colombia trip, citing Gaza situation

Netanyahu was due to travel to the Latin American country from Aug.6-9.

Published: 02nd August 2018 04:29 PM  |   Last Updated: 02nd August 2018 04:29 PM   |  A+A-

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (File | AP)


JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cancelled a trip to Colombia planned for next week due to the situation around the Gaza Strip, an Israeli official said on Thursday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not give further details.

Netanyahu was due to travel to the Latin American country from Aug.6-9.

Tensions have been high in recent weeks along the border between Israel and Gaza, an Islamist-controlled Palestinian territory.

Netanyahu has also been hit by a political crisis over a law defining Israel as a Jewish state, which has drawn protests from its Arab minority and left-wing opposition.

On Wednesday, Israel said it was stopping shipments of fuel and gas to the Gaza Strip in response to militants in the enclave launching incendiary balloons that have torched fields in Israel.

The move, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday, was in response to a continuation of cross-border violence, despite assurances from Egypt, which has been trying to broker a truce, that it would end.

"We acceded to Egypt's request," Lieberman told reporters.

"We allowed in gas and fuel, but there was an additional Egyptian commitment that there would be no more launches, no kites, no conflagrations, no friction along the fence."

"Since those things are continuing, I decided to stop the supplies of gas and fuel to the Gaza Strip," he said.

Israel has lost tracts of farmland and forests to fires set by kites and helium balloons laden with incendiary material and flown over from Gaza.

Israel had already responded by preventing the entry of non-essential commercial goods to Gaza.

Palestinians in Gaza, an impoverished coastal enclave under the control of Islamist militant group Hamas, suffer up to 18 hours of power cuts per day due to fuel shortages.

Four months of weekly border protests that began on March 30 have calmed slightly but organisers have said they will continue until Israel lifts economic sanctions on the enclave.

At least 155 Palestinians have been killed in the protests and one Israeli soldier was shot dead by a sniper in Gaza.

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