Jittery Israel Agrees to Brief Opening of Israel-Gaza Border Crossing

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Despite continuing security concerns, Israel agreed to temporarily open a passage into the Gaza Strip on Monday to allow the delivery of badly needed food and goods to reach Palestinians, sources said.

Reports over the weekend indicated the Palestinians were running out of staples, such as flour, and that bakeries would have to close down.

There are several crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel but only the Karni crossing has been used for the passage of goods between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Karni has been closed for most of the last month amid warnings of a planned terror attack at the site.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz decided to temporarily open the crossing on Monday, to allow "vital goods" to enter the Gaza Strip, said an Israeli security source.

"It is for a limited amount of time. There is a real threat. Nobody is calm at the moment," said the source.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones called a meeting of Israeli, Palestinian and other international officials at his residence in Herzliya on Sunday to try to come up with a way of moving essential goods into Gaza while meeting Israel's security needs, said U.S. Embassy spokesman Stewart Tuttle.

Jones said on Sunday that a deal had been worked out whereby a second and smaller crossing -- Kerem Shalom -- would open for imports of food and other essential humanitarian products to Gaza from Egypt.

The opening of Kerem Shalom -- a three-way crossing near the Gaza-Israel-Egypt border -- was offered earlier to the Palestinians but they refused, Israel said.

According to P.A. negotiator Saeb Erekat, American, Israeli and Palestinian officials were due to meet later on Monday to discuss Israel's security concerns.

"There is still a security warning that is threatening the lives of civilians and soldiers in the crossing," said a Defense Ministry official by telephone. "The P.A. can help the situation by arresting the terrorists involved in the planning of the attack."

Terror organizations have targeted the crossings in the past to hurt Israeli soldiers and civilians despite the fact that they are hurting the Palestinian people, said the official. Israel cannot allow its own citizens to be harmed, the official added.

Meanwhile, new violence erupted in Gaza on Monday when P.A. security forces clashed with gunmen from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (Abbas' Fatah faction). The Fatah gunmen are worried about job security under a new Hamas-led government.

Abbas was in Gaza at the time, to meet with Hamas Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh, who submitted his list of proposed ministers for a Hamas-led government to Abbas.

Abbas said he would submit the list to the PLO for discussion within the next two days.

The list of 24 ministers includes only Hamas supporters, after the group failed to form a coalition government with Fatah or other factions.

The Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine, whose leader was arrested in an Israeli military operation last week, apparently decided not to participate in the Hamas-led government.

The new Hamas government reportedly will include Mahmoud al-Zahar as foreign minister. Al-Zahar, 60, a surgeon by profession who has taught at an Islamic University, was the target of an earlier Israeli assassination attempt.

His son Khaled was killed in a 2003 raid, which followed twin suicide bombings at a popular Jerusalem restaurant and crowded Tel Aviv hitchhiking station.

In an interview last summer, al-Zahar told Cybercast News Service that he kept a picture of his son dead on his cellular telephone to give him courage to send other young Palestinians to die in attacks against Israel.

See Earlier Story:
Dead Son Inspires Hamas Leader to Send Others to Death (July 18, 2005)