Gaza blockade set to be eased

Israel to allow food and medicine to Gaza, but aid workers say its not enough for daily needs.

    The truce has so far halted hostilties between Palestinian fighters and the Israeli military [AFP]

    Israel imposed its siege of the territory a year ago after Hamas, the largest Palestinian armed group, seized total control when it pushed out security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

    The siege has brought the Gazan economy to a standstill, leaving 80 per cent of territory's 1.5 million residents dependent on international food aid.

    Limited quantities of flour, sugar and vegetable oil are expected to resume on Sunday and restrictions at the Karni and Sufa crossings, which handle traffic between Gaza and Israel, may be eased.

    'Heavy price'

    Israeli authorities have made it clear that the reopening of the Rafah crossing with Egypt will depend on the fate of Gilad Shalit, the 21-year-old Israeli soldier seized by Palestinian fighters in a cross-border raid in June 2006.

    Israel and Hamas are expected to renew indirect talks in Cairo on Tuesday on a prisoner exchange involving Shalit, according to a senior Israeli defence

    "Israel knows it will have to pay a heavy price for Shalit's release and free many Palestinian terrorists," the official, who asked not to be named, told the AFP news agency on Thursday.

    The family of the captive Israeli soldier have asked Israel's high court to delay the opening of border crossings with the Gaza Strip until he is released.

    Shalit's family petitioned the court late on Saturday to prevent the implementation of any agreement to open Gaza's border crossings or to ease the economic blockade until Shalit "is freed from his captors or a guarantee for his release is given".

    A poll in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper on Friday said that 78 per cent of Israelis thought the truce agreement should have been made contingent on the release of Shalit.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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