JERUSALEM, (AFP) – Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was expected to press Ehud Olmert on Monday to maintain a ceasefire in Gaza even though the Israeli prime minister accused Hamas of “shattering” the truce.
Their scheduled talks in Jerusalem, the first in two months, come amid rising tension in and around the besieged Gaza Strip where Israeli forces and Palestinian militants have engaged in almost daily tit-for-tat attacks since November 4.
Israeli has cited the violence in further tightening its blockade and completely sealing off the aid-dependent territory, drawing sharp criticism from humanitarian agencies.
“President Abbas will appeal to Olmert to do everything necessary in order to avert a deterioration of the situation that could worsen the suffering of the Gaza population,” a spokesman for the Palestinian leader told AFP.
Nabil Abu Rudeina made it clear Abbas would press Olmert “to work towards maintaining the truce.”
Each side has accused the other of violating the ceasefire in the latest flare up of violence in which volleys of rockets and mortar rounds were fired at southern Israel and 15 Gaza militants were killed since November 4.
Israel said on Sunday it would maintain the closures imposed in response to the violence, but a UN agency said it was told some humanitarian supplies would be allowed in on Monday.
“We have been told the Kerem Shalom crossing would open this morning,” said UN Works and Relief Agency spokesman Chris Gunness. “We have 11 trucks waiting to go in, to deliver luncheon meat and powdered milk.”
He pointed out that many more deliveries will be needed in the impoverished, overcrowded territory where UNRWA distributes food to 750,000 people, or half the population.
“Once the crossings are open we need to fill to the brim our strategic reserves in Gaza. We also need the 21-million-litre storage tanks at the main power plant to be filled up,” he said.
“We cannot have another period when people are not getting their food assistance. We cannot allow people to get punished in that way.”
The tightening of the blockade forced UNRWA to suspend food delivery in Gaza on Friday and led to a shutdown of the territory’s sole power plant.
Israel imposed the blockade after Hamas violently seized power in Gaza in June 2007 ousting forces loyal to Abbas, who now holds sway only in the occupied West Bank.
Israel had been expected to ease its embargo after the truce, intended to last six months, went into effect in June 19, but it argues that attacks by militants have made this impossible.
On Sunday, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told her visiting British counterpart David Miliband that she expected the international community to support the tough stand in Gaza.
“Israel can not just watch its citizens being attacked… The international community can not turn a blind eye,” Livni said.
Miliband was scheduled to tour Sderot, an Israeli town which regularly comes under rocket fire from neighbouring Gaza, before holding talks with Abbas in Ramallah, the West Bank’s main city.