Gaza crisis dominates peace talks

Diplomatic efforts in Jerusalem and Cairo as Egypt signals resealing of Rafah border.

    Some vehicles were stopped from crossing the border but people were still allowed to cross freely [AFP]
    Manoeuvring for control
    Five days after a portion of the fence running between Gaza and Egypt was brought down by explosives, allowing Palestinian residents of Gaza to cross at will in search of supplies, Egyptian forces, the Palestinian president and the Israeli government are all manoeuvring for control of the Egypt-Gaza border.
    During talks on Sunday in Jerusalem, "[Olmert] reassured Abbas that Israel would continue to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza after Abu Mazen [Abbas] requested that Israel not harm the civilian population in the Gaza Strip", an Israeli official said.
    He said Israel and Egypt were also in talks on how to reseal the border with Gaza.
    Abbas reportedly wants to take over Gaza's border crossings, including the one at Rafah.
    A spokesman said on Sunday that Abbas was ready to shoulder the responsibility for the border.
    Israel has so far resisted the idea, citing concerns about security but Olmert again pledged in Sunday's talks that Israel would not allow a humanitarian crisis to develop in Gaza.
    In video

    Gazans breach Egyptian border for a second time

    The point is moot for now with the Gaza-Egypt border still open, and residents hauling food, fuel and other products back home themselves.
    Braving a chilly drizzle on Sunday, Palestinians continued to carry their purchases through the muddy streets of Egyptian Rafah back to Gaza as Egyptian and Hamas co-operated in trying to ensure some sort of order as people crossed.
    Border curbs soon
    But the rare freedom that tens of thousands of Palestinians have enjoyed for nearly a week may soon be curbed again.
    Al Jazeera's John Cookson said word on the street on Sunday night was that the border would be closed to all but medical cases soon.

    Palestinians in Gaza have suffered shortages
    of power, fuel and basic goods [AFP]

    Egypt has vowed to regain control of its border with the enclave and its forces tightened security around the border town of Rafah and stopped some vehicles from moving across the border on Sunday.
    Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, said the Egyptian government had ordered shops shut in Rafah, as well as in the town of El-Arish, 50km from Rafah.
    In Cairo, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egypt's foreign minister, said on Sunday after a meeting with Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, that "Egypt will take necessary actions and measures to control the border in Gaza soon".
    For his part, Fayyad said: "I believe there is a need, and also a consensus, to support the trend backed by the international community, that is to reopen the border crossings and to restore their administration to the Palestinian Authority.
    "This will be a step to enable us to end not only the suffering, but also the [Israeli] siege imposed on Gaza Strip."
    Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have accepted invitations to hold separate talks with the Egyptian government to discuss the situation.

    Palestinians have been moving freely between
    Gaza and Egypt since Wednesday [EPA]

    Arab foreign ministers have already been meeting in Cairo to discuss the situation in Gaza as well as the political stalemate in Lebanon.
    Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since June, deployed armed forces on Sunday to set up checkpoints in Rafah, preventing Gaza cars from entering Egypt.
    The Palestinian group said it was "interested in offering the alternative and that is the opening of the Rafah border crossing, and for that we call upon the Egyptian leaders to take an urgent and quick decision regarding the subject matter".

    Until the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June, the Rafah terminal was run jointly by Egypt, Palestinian Authority security forces and European observers, with surveillance cameras allowing Israel to monitor those passing through.
    Israel launched two air strikes against Hamas targets near Rafah on Sunday but caused no casualties, witnesses said.
    Court hearing
    Also on Sunday, Israel's Supreme Court held a hearing to discuss a petition filed by several human-rights organisations against the reduction in Israeli fuel and gas shipments to Gaza, the Israeli daily Haaretz said.
    The government has previously contested the resumption of fuel shipments.
    The Israeli government's decision to severely limit the amount of fuel and supplies into Gaza caused the Palestinian territory to ground to a halt last week and precipitated the border crisis with Egypt, with Gazans desperate for daily necessities breaking through the border to buy them in Egypt.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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