"I have no intention of placing the Palestinians under siege - the opposite is true," Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz told Israel Radio on Saturday, contradicting an Israeli TV report on Friday. 

An official in Mofaz's office said on Friday night that he had issued Abbas a 48-hour ultimatum threatening to limit the flow of goods across its boundary unless the Palestinian Authority stopped the flow of fighters and weapons across Gaza's border crossing with Egypt.

Mofaz made no mention of a deadline in the radio interview, except to say that he was waiting to hear from a US envoy who was trying to resolve differences over Gaza's border.

"We are waiting to hear from [US Undersecretary of State] David Welch on the outcome of his talks with the Palestinians next week," Mofaz said.

"I have no intention of placing the Palestinians under siege, the opposite is true"

Shaul Mofaz,
Israeli defence minister

"[The Rafah crossing] is open to the movement of terrorists and munitions and is harming the security of the citizens of the state of Israel," he added. 

The Palestinians took control of the Rafah crossing last month after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice negotiated a deal opening of the Gaza border with Egypt following Israel's withdrawal from the territory after 38 years of occupation.

An Islamic Jihad bomber killed five people in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya this past week, after which Mofaz ordered air strikes against fighters.

Three leading Gaza fighters have since been killed.

Nablus cut off

Meanwhile, in Nablus, in the West Bank, Israeli occupation troops have formed sand barriers to close the city's northern entrance.

Witnesses said hundreds of Palestinians and students had been stranded at the Bayzan district in Nablus, which Israeli bulldozers closed with tall sand barriers, cutting Nablus off from the northern West Bank.