Israel revokes entry permits for 500 Gazans after rocket

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Israeli soldiers drive a tank during a training exercise near the Israel-Gaza border, June 7, 2015

Israeli soldiers drive a tank during a training exercise near the Israel-Gaza border, June 7, 2015 (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

Jerusalem (AFP) - Israel said Wednesday it was revoking permits for 500 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to enter Jerusalem for Ramadan prayers because of rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave.

The punitive measure was ordered after a rocket hit southern Israel on Tuesday night, provoking an airstrike from the Jewish state, neither of which caused any injuries.

It was the third incident in recent days to lead Israel to cancel part of its measures easing restrictions on movement for Palestinians from Gaza and the occupied West Bank for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Gaza, ruled by Islamist movement Hamas and ravaged by three wars in the past six years, is under a blockade, with Israel maintaining strict control over the entry and exit of goods and people.

Israel has however eased restrictions on Palestinians seeking to enter Jerusalem for Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third-holiest site, for Ramadan.

Part of the measures included allowing up to 800 Gazans to travel to Al-Aqsa for Friday prayers.

Israel said Wednesday it was revoking 500 such permits, with the cancellations applying to this week only. A spokeswoman for COGAT, the defence ministry unit which coordinates with Gaza, told AFP the move was "because of the rocket".

Some Gaza residents on Wednesday called the punitive measure unfair and said they had no control over the militants firing rockets.

"This is not our fault," said Rabaea Abu Halima, a resident of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip. "We do not want any rockets to be launched on Israel."

The defence ministry had said the easing of restrictions was conditional on a continued lull in violence, which was initially broken late Friday with the killing of an Israeli hiker in the West Bank.

That incident was followed by the stabbing of a policeman in east Jerusalem on Sunday.

In response, Israel had revoked entry permits for residents of the West Bank village where the Palestinian who had stabbed the policeman was from.

It also cancelled permission for 500 West Bank Palestinians to fly via Israel's Ben Gurion airport.

- Claim by radical Islamists -

Tuesday night's rocket firing was the fifth such incident in just under a month.

It was claimed -- like all recent incidents of firing on southern Israel -- by a radical Islamist organisation loosely allied with the Islamic State group.

The group calling itself "Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem" recently emerged in Gaza amid increasing tensions between Hamas and extremist splinter groups.

Israel however says it holds Hamas responsible for any fire from its territory.

Israeli aircraft struck Gaza following Tuesday's rocket attack, with Palestinian security sources saying the raid hit farmland in northern Gaza, causing no injuries or damage.

The last rocket to hit Israel was on June 6 and was followed within hours by an Israeli air strike into the coastal strip.

Israel went to war against Hamas last summer with the aim of stamping out cross-border rocket and mortar attacks.

The 50-day conflict killed about 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers.