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Israel rejects UN call to end blockade of Gaza

Nov. 19, 2008 9:35 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 19, 2008 9:35 A.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided to keep Israel's borders with the Gaza Strip closed on Wednesday, continuing a two-week-long strict blockade.

The renewal of the blockade was a rejection of calls by senior United Nations officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Ban phoned Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday to urge him to ease the blockade. According to the UN, Olmert promised to "look seriously into the urgent matter" of the blockade.

Wednesday's order means that the Israeli military will continue to turn away trucks carrying food, medicine, fuel, and other essential goods before they can reach Gaza's 1.5 million residents.

The closure was ordered on the pretext of Palestinian homemade projectiles fired from Gaza into Israel. Israeli radio reported that this decision came after a meeting Barak held with representatives of the various Israeli security services.

On Monday Israel allowed 33 truckloads of food and other vital goods into Gaza in a move the United Nations and major aid organizations said was insufficient to an unfolding humanitarian crisis.

The tiny coastal Strip has suffered rolling blackouts and a food shortage since the intensification of the closure regime began on 4 November.

Meanwhile, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the military wing of Fatah, claimed responsibility on Tuesday night for launching two mortar shells at the Israeli town of Kfar Aza, east of Gaza City.

Also on Tuesday the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, urged Israel to end the blockade immediately, saying that Gaza's 1.5 million residents have been "forcibly deprived of their most basic human rights for months."

Israel angrily dismissed these remarks, blaming the ruling Hamas movement for the situation in Gaza.

***Updated at 12:59 local time
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