Israel renews blockade of Gaza crossings

Israel Materials 18 November 2008 12:42 (UTC +04:00)

Israel shut border crossings with the Gaza Strip Tuesday citing continued rocket fire at its towns, despite warnings from world aid groups of looming shortages of food and fuel supplies in the coastal territory, reported Reuters.

Israel had lifted a two-week blockade on Gaza Monday, allowing in 33 truckloads of supplies, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert assured Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas he would not permit a humanitarian crisis to develop there.

But Israel reimposed the closure Tuesday.

"The crossings are shut because of ongoing rocket fire," Peter Lerner, a defense spokesman said, referring to several barrages of rockets fired from Gaza Monday that slammed into Israeli towns, causing no injury.

International aid groups said the trucks sent in Monday were not enough to alleviate shortages of items such as fuel that have led to daily periodic electricity blackouts for 1.5 million Palestinians living in the territory.

Israel had not allowed UNRWA, a United Nations agency that aids some 750,000 refugees in Gaza, to bring in supplies since November 4 during cross-border fighting in which more than a dozen Palestinian fighters were killed.

Several Israelis have been lightly wounded by dozens of rockets fired by gunmen after the Israeli raids.

The British-based Oxfam International humanitarian agency said in a statement that "only the bare minimum of goods have entered Gaza in the past couple of days."

Barbara Stocking, Oxfam's chief executive, added that the group "fears a serious worsening once again of the humanitarian situation if urgent action is not taken."

In talks with Olmert in Jerusalem Monday, Abbas urged Israel to abide by a 5-month-old Egyptian-brokered truce with Hamas Islamists who control Gaza, a deal that has neared collapse in the past two weeks of fighting.

Abbas, involved in peace talks with Israel since last year, a move rejected by Hamas, has condemned Israel's tightened blockade of Gaza as a "war crime."

Olmert promised Abbas Israel would free some 250 Palestinian prisoners to the occupied West Bank, of some 11,000 Israel holds in its jails.

Israeli troops arrested 32 more Palestinian suspects in overnight raids against militant hideouts Tuesday in the West Bank, a military spokesman said.