Palestinians agree to 24-hour lull

Hamas says it will halt rocket fire as food and medical aid is allowed into Gaza.

    Half of Gaza's bakeries have shut down due to a shortage of wheat, fuel and power [AFP]

    Hossam Zaki, a spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry, told the AFP news agency that "we asked both both parties to create a suitable atmosphere to allow an Egyptian humanitarian convoy from the Egyptian Red Crescent to enter Gaza in security.

    "The two parties dealt with the Egyptian request in a positive manner."

    Shortage of supplies

    Al Jazeera's correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Gaza, said that even if the aid convoy is allowed to enter the Strip, the delivery will not be enough to have any lasting impact on the shortage of supplies.

    "The United Nations Relief Agency, which distributes food to around 750,000 Palestinians, says it needs around 100 trucks of wheat to meet the demands of the population," he said.

    "And the World Health Organisation told us that 105 critical life-saving medicines have reached zero level, so they are desperately in need of stock.

    "The situation remains very dire and desperate according to international organisations here in Gaza," Mohyeldin said. 

    A six-month Egyptian-mediated truce between Israel and Hamas expired on Friday.

    Tensions have since been high, and the Israeli army has carried out several air attacks, killing one fighter and wounding several Palestinians. Palestinian fighters have launched dozens of home-made rockets into Israel, wounding a handful of people.

    Truce talks

    On Monday, Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, told Israel's Channel 10 television that the truce could be restored.

    "The price is the lives of the Palestinian people,'' he said, adding that Israel must allow regular food and electricity supplies and halt military actions in the West Bank as well as Gaza.

    Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, has invited Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, to Cairo on Thursday for talks about a new truce, Livni's office said in a statement.

    Officials said she would tell Mubarak that Israel was prepared to consider offers, but she would also complain about the hundreds of rockets and mortars that have been fired into Israel over the past month.

    "People abroad perhaps do not understand the real distress of Israelis in the south who live with the rocket threat. Then you wake up in the morning with an Israeli response, and you don't understand where it came from," Yigal Palmor, Israel foreign minister, spokesman, said.

    Israel tightened its siege of the territory in November, blocking deliveries of humanitarian aid and other basic supplies.

    Israel argues that its closure is in response to the rocket attacks, but the siege has been criticsed by international groups as a collective punishment on the population of 1.5 million.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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