06/20/2007, 00.00
PALESTINE – ISRAEL
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Israel opens Erez crossing to a small number of Palestinians

Hundreds of Palestinians are stranded in the concrete walkway that links the Gaza strip to Israel trying to escape from Hamas. Israeli authorities claim security reasons prevent them from letting them through but the growing humanitarian crisis might force them to relent.

Gaza (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Israeli authorities said that they will allow in a number of Palestinians stranded in the Erez border crossing trying to flee the Gaza Strip now under Hamas control. An estimated 600 people want to enter Israel to reach the West Bank now ruled by a new, Fatah-led Palestinian emergency cabinet.

For the past five days hundreds of Gazans trying to escape the Strip have been lying on bare concrete amid deteriorating hygienic and health conditions, with little or no food. Men, women, the elderly and the very young are trying to escape the lack of food and hospitals lacking everything, including fuel.

Many complain about President Mahmoud Abbas’ apparent indifference to the plight of ordinary people trying to escape from the Islamic movement; apparently more interested instead in helping Fatah leaders and security personnel get out.

Huddled among their possessions and running out of food and water, they constitute a miserable scene. They sit or lie on the connecting concrete walkway.

Behind them are the Hamas gunmen who, they believe, will kill them if they return. In front of them, Israel and the soldiers they have feared who are preventing them from getting out of the walkway.

"What we've done over the last couple of days, we've been giving them food and water. We still expect them to go back home," Major Peter Lerner from the Israeli Defence Force said.

However, the growing humanitarian crisis has pushed Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak to instruct officials to admit those needing urgent care, but it is not yet clear what their numbers will be and on what basis they will be allowed in for medical care.

In the meantime the International Red Cross has called for urgent medical supplies to be shipped to Gaza where an estimate 500 people have been hospitalised as a result of last week’s violence.

This morning the first clashes between Israeli troops and Hamas since the latter’s takeover of the Strip left at least four Palestinians dead.

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Gaza, new ceasefire between Hamas and Fatah
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