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    Palestinian protesters throw stones towards Israeli forces during a demonstration along the border between Israel and the Gaza strip, east of Gaza city on July 27, 2018

    Netanyahu Unexpectedly Scraps Colombia Trip 'Due to Situation in South' – Report

    © AFP 2019 / MAHMUD HAMS
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    Reports of the cancellation of the Prime Minister's trip come a day after Israel indefinitely reimposed its fuel embargo on the Gaza Strip over ongoing fire balloon and arson kite attacks originating from Gazan territory.

    The Israeli Prime Minister's office has confirmed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not be attending the inauguration of newly-elected Colombian President Ivan Duque as planned. 

    "Due to the situation in the south, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to stay in Israel next week and therefore cancelled his trip to Colombia," the statement said, without providing any further details.

    The four-day trip, slated to have occurred between August 6 and August 9, was the first cancellation of a foreign trip by Netanyahu in several years. The visit was to have been his second trip to Latin America in a year's time, and would also have included meetings with Latin American leaders at President-elect Duque's inauguration ceremony on August 7.

    Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Noa Landau speculated that the cancellation may be a sign of progress in talks mediated by Egypt and the United Nations between Israel and Palestinian political and militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, over the tense situation on Israel's border with Gaza.

    Israel shut down deliveries of gas and fuel into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday in response to a surge of fire balloon and arson kite attacks originating from the blockaded territory. Netanyahu has not canceled plans to visit Lithuania and Croatia later this month for talks with the leaders of those countries.

    Tensions between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza have surged during the 2018 Gaza border protests, which started on March 30. Protesters are demanding that Palestinian refugees living in Gaza be allowed to return to what is now Israeli territory, and protesting the US decision to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The protests have led to over 155 deaths and between 14,000-15,000 injuries on the Palestinian side, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. One Israeli soldier has been killed in a sniper attack, with six more troops and five Israeli civilians receiving injuries caused by Hamas arson kite, balloon and mortar attacks. The arson attacks have also caused extensive economic losses in Israeli farmland nearby.

    On Sunday, UN Special Envoy to the Middle East Nikolay Mladenov described the prospects for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians as "positive" after meeting in Cairo with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. The envoy had earlier met with Hamas representatives in Gaza and Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel. According to Egyptian reports, the peace agreement would see an immediate removal of restrictions on movement at the Kerem Shalom border crossing, as well as a ceasefire between Hamas and the Israeli Defense Forces. The next stage would require the return of two IDF troops killed in Gaza during the 2014 war in exchange for international humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza.


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    diplomatic trip, trip, Benjamin Netanyahu, Gaza Strip, Israel, Colombia
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