The announcement of an extended closure was made at the weekly cabinet meeting by right-wing Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who had initially ordered the closure to remain in force from March 11-17 during the course of the Purim Jewish festival – an extension from February 12.The closure comes at a time when Palestinians are facing a severe humanitarian crisis, and the Gaza Strip is completely out of bread.  A United Nations report Monday blamed the food crisis on the Israeli closure of Palestinian areas, and called for an end to the closure.  Such a closure of occupied populations is illegal under international law, as is the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

In response to repeated urgent requests from humanitarian organizations and the United Nations, Israeli forces stationed at the Kerim Shalom Crossing held an ad-hoc meeting at the crossing with Palestinian local leaders on Monday afternoon, and decided to temporarily open the trade crossing to allow trucks of food to enter.

The agreement came after a weeks-long flour crisis in the Gaza Strip threatened people’s lives.  Both sides agree to have the crossing opened in order to allow the trucks of food stuff to enter the Strip.  The trucks are coming from the Egyptian side as a gift from the Egyptian government to the Palestinian people.

Meanwhile, the Israeli minister Shaol Mofaz agreed to have the Carni Crossing reopened temporarily on Monday afternoon to enable some trucks of aid to enter the Gaza Strip.

While foodstuffs are being allowed in as an emergency, temporary measure, the closure for Palestinian people to pass in and out of the Palestinian areas, however, remains in place. 

It was initially prolonged until March 18 after the controversial storming of a West Bank prison by Israeli forces, and Israel’s subsequent capture of six inmates, claimed by Palestinians to be political prisoners.  The Palestinian High Court had previously ruled that there was no evidence on which to hold the men, but they remained in prison due to an agreement between Israel, the US, the UK and the Palestinian Authority.  After Israel’s attack on the prison and abduction of the men last week, Israeli  authorities, apparently fearing a backlash, kept a strict closure on all areas of Palestine.

No new date for the lifting of the closure has been given. The measure will prevent Palestinians from receiving necessary foodstuffs and other materials, and will keep thousands of Palestinians from entering Israel for work.