Gaza crossings should be open to prevent smuggling: Mitchell

Israel Materials 29 January 2009 19:03 (UTC +04:00)

New US Middle East envoy George Mitchell called Thursday on Israel to open the crossing points into the Gaza Strip, saying that a steady flow of legal goods into the salient would help end the illegal smuggling of arms into the enclave, dpa reported.

"To be successful in preventing the illegal trafficking of arms into the Gaza Strip, there must be a mechanism to allow the flow of legal goods," he told reporters after meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Israel, which controls the crossing points, insists that a ceasefire being negotiated by Egypt in wake of Israel's three-week- long assault on Gaza Strip militants, includes a provision which would prevent the militias from smuggling in arms to replenish their stocks.

Hamas, against whom the Israeli assault was mainly directed, has scoffed at this demand and also insists that any ceasefire result in the crossing points remaining open.

Israel, and then the militant groups, declared separate unilateral ceasefires on January 8, but violence flared again this week after militants detonated a bomb next to an Israeli border patrol killing one soldier.

Mitchell said Thursday that it was "important to consolidate a sustainable and durable" ceasefire.

The envoy, who leaves for Amman, Jordan on Friday, is making his first trip to the region since President Barack Obama named him to the envoy post last week.