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Talks planned as humanitarian crisis worsens

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-11-15

After the breakdown of a five-month ceasefire, outgoing Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas agreed to meet in Jersualem on Monday to discuss the worsening humanitarian situation.

 
Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Monday to discuss tensions in the Gaza Strip and the sluggish peace talks, officials said on Saturday.
  
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told AFP that the two leaders will meet on Monday at Olmert's Jerusalem residence. A senior Israeli official confirmed the meeting's timing and location.
  
The meeting, the first in over two months, will focus on the five-month-old ceasefire between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement that seized power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007, ousting forces loyal to Abbas, the two officials said.
  
The fragile Egyptian-brokered truce is under severe strain following 12 days of tit-for-tat skirmishes between the Israeli army and Gaza militants.
  
Abbas was expected to ask Olmert to alleviate Israel's punishing blockade on Gaza, which it completely sealed off last week in response to renewed rocket fire against southern Israel, Erekat said.
  
The Palestinian leader will also discuss Israel's ongoing settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, "notably in the wake of reports that (Defence Minister Ehud) Barak has authorised new construction," Erekat added.
  
The two leaders, who last met on September 16, will also continue the Middle East peace talks, which were practically suspended after Olmert stepped down in September over corruption allegations.
  
The US-backed talks, launched nearly a year ago at an international summit in Annapolis, Maryland, has made little visible progress as both leaders have conceded that they would not meet their declared goal of inking a deal before President George W. Bush leaves office on January 20.
 

Israel imposed a blockade of Gaza after the Islamist Hamas movement seized control of the territory in June 2007.

 

As blockade continues, UN voices concern

 
Gaza militants early on Saturday fired a rocket against Israel, the army said, amid growing warnings of a looming humanitarian crisis in the blockaded Hamas-ruled territory.
  
The rocket, which was fired by Palestinian militants in northern Gaza Strip, caused no damage nor casualties, an army spokeswoman said.
  
The rocket fire followed 11 days of tit-for-tat skirmishes that have rocked a fragile five-month-old truce and prompted Israel on November 5 to seal off its crossings with Gaza, the territory's sole gateway for vital goods.
  
The Israeli government on Friday ordered that the crossings remain closed after militants fired heavy rockets against the city of Ashkelon.
  
A range of international organisations and rights movements have urged Israel to ease its punishing blockade on Gaza and to allow food convoys and to resume fuel supplies to the impoverished territory.
  
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "is deeply concerned at the deterioration of the humanitarian and security situation in Gaza and southern Israel. He calls on all parties to uphold international humanitarian and human rights law," a UN statement said.
  
Israel imposed a blockade of Gaza after the Islamist Hamas movement seized control of the territory in June 2007.

Date created : 2008-11-15

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