Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, discussed on Sunday the situation in Gaza, amidst growing concerns over a likely humanitarian crisis, as Israeli closure continues.
Media reports said that the two leaders’ meeting, which comes in a series of talks following this month’s visit of U.S President Gorge W. Bush to the region, focused on the humanitarian side.
Senior Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Eriqat, said that Olmert pledged to avert a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, by easing current restrictions, which involve food , medicine and fuel supplies cuts.
The meeting comes on the heels of last week’s immense pressure, Israel faced right after its decision on Friday to seal of all Gaza’s travel and commercial crossings, including cutting off fuel supplies to the Gaza’s 1.5-million residents.
Last week, the United States blocked a United Nations Security Council’s resolution that condemns Israel’s actions on Gaza as ‘ a collective punishment’.
On Wednesday, besieged crowds of Gaza thronged their way into the bordering Egypt to get essential supplies. The event has bred wide-scale reactions at the local and international levels.
The ruling Hamas party in Gaza hinted this week at the possibility it would agree to Abbas’s government offer last month to control Gaza’s border crossings including the Rafah terminal on Gaza-Egypt border line.
Ahmad Yousef, former advisor to Palestinian Prime Minister of Hamas, Ismail Haniya, revealed today that a Hamas delegation would head this week for Cairo to hold contacts over operation of the Rafah crossing.
He also disclosed that separate talks between the rival Hamas and Fatah parties will also be held.
Yesterday, Hamas’s spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, told reporters that the situation in Rafah is temporary and unusual.
Hamas wants that the crossing, be operated by Egyptians and Palestinians only, with no intervention by a third party.
Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, of the Ramallah-based government, presented last month, during the Paris donors meeting, a plan that the Abbas forces control the crossings.
Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, has so far refused the proposal as long as Hamas remains in power in the costal territory.
Last month, Israel further tightened the siege, imposed on Gaza over the past 7 months, by cutting off fuel supplies and leaving Gaza’s residents in an almost total blackout. Israel says its actions are meant to stop homemade shells fire from the Hamas-ruled territory onto southern Israel.
The ‘now’ reopened Gaza-Egypt border line used to be controlled by Abbas-linked forces along side the Egyptian authorities, with the help of European observers, before Hamas took over the coastal region in June2007 and routed the Abbas security services.