( news.yahoo.com ) - Israel eased its siege of Gaza for a day on Tuesday, allowing in shipments of fuel and medicine. But tensions erupted over Egypt's closure of its Gaza border, with Palestinian protesters breaking through the crossing and clashing with Egyptian guards.
Ten Egyptian police and about 60 protesters were hurt as protesters hurled stones at the Egyptians and Palestinian gunmen fired briefly in the air. Hundreds of protesters briefly broke through the border terminal, pushing back helmeted Egyptian riot police who fired in the air to try to contain the crowd.
The clash came at the end of a protest of several thousand women carrying Hamas flags and calling for a lifting of the full closure of Gaza imposed by Israel last week. The protesters hurled insults at Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
"Hosni Mubarak you are a coward, you are an agent for the Americans," they chanted. " Gaza women will not be humiliated."
Since Hamas violently took over Gaza in June, Egypt has joined Israel in severely restricting access to Gaza, largely keeping its border terminal closed. Egypt is concerned about a spillover of Hamas-style militancy into its territory
Israel imposed its blockade last week last week in retaliation for a sharp increase in rocket attacks on border communities by Gaza militants.
The closure cut off fuel supplies and Hamas shut down the Gaza Strip's only power plant on Sunday, cutting off electricity to about one-third of the territory's 1.5 million residents.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided Monday to let in limited shipments of fuel and medicine to ease hardship after condemnation from humanitarian and rights groups. But at the same time, Barak warned he was prepared to hit Gaza hard to restore calm in Israeli towns.
International aid groups warned Monday they may have to suspend food distribution to hundreds of thousands of people by the end of the week because they lack truck fuel.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that the U.S. administration has spoken to Israeli officials "about the importance of not allowing a humanitarian crisis to unfold." Israeli officials were receptive, she said, adding that she blames Hamas for situation.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday he will not pull out of peace talks with Israel despite its blockade of Gaza. Abbas has been under growing pressure at home to suspend the recently restarted U.S.-backed negotiations with Israel, which are to produce a peace deal in 2008.
"Halting contacts with Israel is useless," Abbas said in his first comment since the latest round of Israel-Hamas fighting erupted last week. "On the contrary, we should intensify our contacts and our meetings to stop the suffering of our people."
Abbas leads the moderate Fatah faction which is embroiled in a power struggle with Hamas over control of the Palestinian territories. Hamas took control of Gaza from Fatah by force in June but Fatah still runs the West Bank. The Islamic militant group, which is sworn to Israel's destruction, is not a party to the peace talks.
Abbas also offered to have his government take control of the Palestinian side of Gaza crossings. Israel's refusal to deal with Hamas officials contributed to its decision to severely restrict the flow of people and goods in and out of Gaza after Hamas won parliament elections in 2006.
Hamas and Israel have not commented on the idea, but Rice said Tuesday the proposal is worth studying.
If Abbas loyalists were posted at the crossings, it could mean a resumption of relatively unhindered border traffic, easing Gaza's isolation and international sanctions against Hamas.
The international Red Cross called Tuesday for Israel to lift the blockade and said aid must be allowed into the territory on a regular basis to prevent a complete collapse of health and sanitary services.
"Deliveries of essential humanitarian goods must be secured in the long run to prevent more hardship and to avoid the collapse of the already fragile infrastructure," said Dorothea Krimitsas, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross.Israeli officials have accused Hamas of manufacturing a crisis, charging that the Gaza government has more energy reserves than it is letting on.
Still, Israeli tanker trucks were pumping 185,000 gallons of fuel to the other side, enough to provide electricity to Gaza City for two days. Other trucks were delivering cooking gas, and a shipment of medicine was to be sent later in the day.
Israel delivered the first of three fuel shipments on Tuesday. In all, Gaza is to receive 580,000 gallons over three days, enough to keep the Gaza power plant running for a week, said Kanan Obeid, head of Gaza's energy authority.
The power plant provides electricity to Gaza City. Other parts of Gaza are supplied directly by Israel and Egypt, and that service has continued uninterrupted.
Despite the limited resumption of fuel shipments, Gaza militants fired six rockets toward Israel on Tuesday.