02/01/2008, 00.00
PALESTINE - ISRAEL
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The Gaza border is under control, while Egypt is pushing Hamas and Abbas to dialogue

Cairo hopes to restore the Palestinian Authority as the guarantee of security in Gaza. But dialogue between Abbas and Meshal is still difficult. Human Rights Watch accuses Israel and the international community of creating a "humanitarian crisis" in the Gaza Strip.

Rafah (AsiaNews/Agencies) - For the first time in nine days, the Egyptian authorities have succeeded in blocking the flow of vehicles coming from Gaza.  The control of the Rafah border has been enforced with the help of Hamas militants, but the flow of people crossing the border both ways on foot has not yet been stopped.  The breaches opened in the border wall between the Gaza Strip and Egypt have all been repaired with barbed wire, and gated. For seven months, the Gaza Strip has been blockaded and isolated by the international community and by Israel, after Hamas wrested control over Gaza from Fatah. The isolation has increased in recent days after Israel cut off petrol supplies from Gaza's power stations.  Israel is accusing Hamas of launching rockets from Gaza against Jewish citizens. 

Yesterday, talks opened in Cairo between Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader exiled in Damascus, and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.  The two are trying to resolve the crisis that has erupted in recent days. 

Egypt is hoping to convince the two parties to give the Palestinian Authority - the only group in question that is recognised by the international community - control over security and borders in Gaza.  This would push the international community to lift the embargo on the Gaza Strip. 

But so far, the two parties have given no sign of reaching any agreement. 

Meanwhile, yesterday evening Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Israel and the international community of wanting to provoke "a humanitarian disaster" in the Gaza Strip.  In its annual report, HRW condemns the indiscriminate launching of rockets against Israeli cities, but also affirms that the blockade of Gaza is denying 1.4 million Palestinians the food, fuel, and medicine that they need to survive.  This is contributing to a serious "human rights and humanitarian crisis". 

HRW also affirms that the decision of Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, to cut off fuel and electricity constitutes a "collective punishment and a violation of international law".

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