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US urges Israel to avert Gaza crisis

world Updated: Jan 22, 2008 17:14 IST

AFP
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US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on Tuesday urged Israel to not let a humanitarian crisis develop in the Gaza Strip as Israel eased a fuel blockade in the Hamas-run territory.

"Ultimately, Hamas is to blame for this circumstance because if they were more responsible toward the international community, then Gaza would be connected to the outside world rather than cut off," Rice said upon arriving in Berlin for negotiations on Iran's nuclear programme.

"But that said, nobody wants innocent Gazans to suffer so we have spoken to the Israelis about the importance of not allowing a humanitarian crisis to unfold there."

"They have said they do not want a humanitarian crisis and they understand the need to permit fuel and electricity in Gaza," she added.

Fuel trucks entered Gaza early on Tuesday as Israel eased a punishing blockade of the territory imposed on last Thursday.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak had ordered the coastal strip sealed off in response to rockets being fired into the Jewish state but there has been mounting international fears of a humanitarian crisis.

The blockade also raised warnings that it could sink the peace talks that Israel and the Palestinians revived in late November under US stewardship.

"I think the Israelis are trying to deal with also an untenable situation from their point of view... I am hopeful that perhaps people can look at different ways of dealing with Gaza," Rice said.