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Ceasefire in Gaza reaches halfway point

Sept. 15, 2008 12:13 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 15, 2008 12:13 P.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - A ceasefire proclaimed by Israel and several Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip will be three months old on 19 September, halfway through the agreed upon six-month schedule.

But Gazan residents see few, if any, additional benefits of the new quiet. The two largest commercial crossing points, Karni and Karem Shalom, are still closed. And the Rafah crossing is rarely opened.

Without the cement, aluminum or steel needed for construction, the Gazan economy is paralyzed. The only noticeable improvement has been a month-long increase in the food supply, but even that small upgrade is due to Ramadan festivities. And the holiday products are made in Israel, anyway.

On Monday, Israeli authorities closed three more crossing points; this time at Sufa, Nahal Oz and Erez, which have been opening and closing since 19 June. Yet again, Palestinian projectiles served as a pretext for the closures.

Hamas called on Egypt to exert pressure on Israel to adhere to the terms of the ceasefire. The movement accuses Israel of closing the crossing points in order to pressure the Gazan population to reject Hamas control.

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum asserted that the ceasefire had not achieved Palestinian expectations, as the siege was not lifted, nor new crossing points opened. He accused Israel of carrying out the ceasefire agreement according to the moods and wishes of its leaders.

"Everybody knows that we agreed on a ceasefire to eliminate Israeli pretexts [for military operations]," Barhoum said. "We wanted to give the Egyptians an opportunity (to help), while we knew from past experiences that Israel would not adhere to the ceasefire."

He noted that Palestinian factions regularly monitor Israeli breaches and report them to Egyptian authorities.

Islamic Jihad leader Khalid Al-Batsh said Monday morning that "Israel escalates operations in the Gaza Strip in order to end the ceasefire agreement, which they were never committed to."

Commenting on the Israeli defense minister's recent decision to close more Gaza Strip crossing points, Al-Batsh said the world was "about to witness a new holocaust against civilians in the Gaza Strip," in what he called an effort to "put more pressure on the population of Gaza in light of the state of disagreement between the Palestinians."

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