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Israel reopens Gaza crossing under foreign pressure

Written by: Staff

GAZA, Mar 21: Israel reopened the main goods crossing into Gaza today (Mar 21, 2006) under foreign pressure, letting truckloads of flour, rice and cooking oil pass after Palestinian officials and aid groups warned of food shortages.

The Karni crossing has frequently been closed by Israel since early January despite an agreement brokered by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to boost the flow of goods into and out of Gaza after Israel's withdrawal last year.

Israeli defence officials said the closures were in response to urgent security threats, but many Palestinians called them punishment for electing the Islamic militant group Hamas in January's parliamentary poll.

Saeed Seyam, Hamas's choice for the post of interior minister in a Hamas-led gvoernment, said the closure would only increase violence.

''If Israel closed (the territory), our people will have nothing to lose and Israel will pay the price for the anger and the uprising of our people,'' he told reporters in Gaza.

The Karni crossing was reopened yesterday for less than an hour.

Palestinian officials complained that during the brief opening, Israel let shipments of Coca-Cola pass through but blocked other trucks containing flour urgently needed by the 1.4 million alestinians who live in the Gaza Strip.

A Palestinian security officer said Karni was opened again at around 1100 hrs today and that cargo trucks containing flour, rice and cooking oil started moving into Gaza.

Israel's Defence Ministry declined to say how long today's opening would last.

During yesterday's brief opening, only six trucks carrying flour, sugar and Coca-Cola went through the Karni terminal, Palestinian officials said.

Palestinians have reported shortages of bread and other staples in Gaza because of the closure of Karni, which handles most goods traffic with the Jewish state.

Outside the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, a demonstration that included 30 Palestinian children urged Israel to let food through. ''We want flour and we want sugar,'' they chanted.

Karni has been closed for an estimated 50 days since early January, according to Palestinian estimates.

Israeli officials said the Jewish state had no choice but to be cautious because Karni has been targeted in the past by Palestinian suicide attackers and infiltrators.


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