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Abbas and Olmert meet as Israel maintains Gaza blockade

Text by Nicholas RUSHWORTH

Latest update : 2008-11-17

Israel's interim PM Ehud Olmert is meeting moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for talks this Monday despite Israel's decision to maintain the blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Israel vowed Sunday to keep up its blockade of Gaza, the defence ministry said in a statement after Tel Aviv accused the Islamist Hamas movement of "shattering" a truce with rocket fire.

"Defence Minister Ehud Barak has decided to maintain Monday the closure of points of crossing into the Gaza Strip, following consultation with various members of the security services," the statement read.

"This decision has been taken following fresh rocket fire against Israeli territory," it added.

Rockets hit Israel Sunday, injuring one person, prompting an air strike which killed four Palestinian militants.

Despite mounting international pressure for a resumption of desperately needed food and fuel, Israel's border crossings have remained closed to humanitarian deliveries to the aid-dependent territory.

The blockade, imposed after Hamas seized power in June 2007, has forced the United Nations to suspend food distribution to 750,000 Gaza residents and the territory's sole power plant to shut down.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was expected to press Olmert on the issue in talks on Monday, following appeals from both the European Union and the United Nations.

An Egyptian-brokered truce with Hamas went into force on June 19, but since violence flared on November 5, Israeli forces and militants, some of them from Hamas, have engaged in almost daily tit-for-tat exchanges.

Date created : 2008-11-17