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'Israel lets limited aid into Gaza Strip'

Israel opened a border crossing with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip for the first time in two weeks, allowing in a limited amount of humanitarian aid, UN and Palestinian officials said.

world Updated: Nov 17, 2008 16:33 IST
Abed Shana

Israel opened a border crossing with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on Monday for the first time in two weeks, allowing in a limited amount of humanitarian aid, UN and Palestinian officials said.

The move came ahead of talks in Jerusalem between outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who termed Israel's tightened blockade of the Gaza Strip a "war crime".

"It will last a matter of days. But then what?" Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said of the new supplies.

UN and Palestinian officials said Israeli authorities gave approval for the transfer of 30 truckloads of goods into the Gaza Strip, including meat and powdered milk for UNRWA.

Israeli officials had no immediate comment.

Israel had not allowed UNRWA and other agencies to bring in supplies since Nov. 4, when its troops raided the impoverished coastal enclave to destroy what the army described as a tunnel built by militants to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

More than a dozen Palestinian militants have been killed in two weeks of cross-border fighting that threatens a 5-month-old truce, due to expire in December, along the Israel-Gaza frontier.

Militants have responded to Israeli incursions with rocket salvoes -- including several on Monday. Olmert has described the rocket attacks, which have caused few injuries and little damage, as intolerable.

UNRWA cautioned last week it had run out of food supplies for 750,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip because Israel had blocked trucks from entering the territory.

Short of fuel, Gaza's sole power plant has also shut down, resulting in blackouts.

Both Israel and Hamas have sent signals they want to restore the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, which went into effect on June 19.

It calls on Hamas to halt rocket fire and other attacks against the Jewish state. It also demands Israel gradually ease the blockade it tightened on the Gaza Strip more than a year ago after Hamas Islamists routed secular Fatah forces loyal to Abbas.