Israel's Netanyahu holds firm on Gaza blockad | world | Hindustan Times
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Israel's Netanyahu holds firm on Gaza blockad

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed there would be no let-up in Israel's much-criticised blockade of Gaza, warning that the ceasefire with the territory's Hamas rulers remained fragile.

world Updated: May 31, 2009 21:09 IST

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Sunday there would be no let-up in Israel's much-criticised blockade of Gaza, warning that the ceasefire with the territory's Hamas rulers remained fragile.

"We are being asked to ease the living conditions of the population and allow goods and equipment in, but we have other priorities in the Gaza Strip," a senior official quoted Netanyahu as telling a cabinet meeting.

"We do not want to strengthen Hamas, not by allowing them to rebuild their defences," he said.

Israel tightened a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip after Hamas, an Islamist group pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state, violently seized power in the territory in June 2007.

Since then Israel has allowed only essential humanitarian goods to enter the impoverished land of 1.5 million people where the majority depend on foreign aid.

Israel unleashed a massive 22-day offensive on Gaza on December 27 in response to militant rocket fire, leaving more than 1,400 Palestians dead and much of the territory in ruins.

The two declared mutual ceasefires on January 18, although both sides have reported breaches and efforts to forge a sustainable truce have so far failed.

"The ceasefire is not complete and is very fragile," the official quoted Netanyahu as saying. "Hamas continues to smuggle through the tunnels."

"We want to bring Gilad Shalit back home," he said, referring to an Israeli soldier seized by Gaza militants, including Hamas, in June 2006.

"We need to find a balance between easing the conditions of the (Gaza) population and easing on Hamas's ability to acquire more weapons."