In a meeting of Defense Ministry officials led by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai on Wednesday night, Israel decided it will maintain the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip but that certain items would
be allowed through in order to provide for basic Palestinian needs.
The Hamas-controlled coastal enclave will remain sealed off. The only items that will be allowed through will be diesel fuel for Gaza power plants, gasoline for hospital ambulances, cooking gas for Gaza residents and various other humanitarian provisions.
Vilnai presided over the discussion as Defense Minister Ehud Barak is currently out of the country on an official state visit to France.
Barak with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner (Photo: Erez Lichtfeld)
"Israel doesn't want to create a humanitarian crisis but if unless there is peace – the Palestinians won't have quiet either," Barak said after his meeting with French counterpart Hervé Morin. Barak also met with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and later with French President Nicholas Sarkozy.
Speaking at the closing session of the annual Herzliya Conference on Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: "We will continue to target terror leaders in the Gaza Strip and we will not hesitate to affect the quality of life of its residents. Under no conditions or circumstances will we allow for a humanitarian crisis to develop.
"We will not harm food provisions for children, nor medicines for those in need or fuel for institutions working to save lives," Olmert said, adding that he had given his full support to the measures ordered by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
With regards to the destruction of the fence separating the Gaza Strip from Egypt and the subsequent passage of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday morning, Defense Ministry officials said that the Egyptians are the ones responsible for preventing these types of occurrences.
The officials said the current situation whereby there is a free and open crossing between Egypt and Gaza is untenable since it enables the unhindered passage of wanted terrorists and weapons.
Hadash: Olmert promise to passage of trucks
In a meeting between Hadash party officials and Prime Minister Olmert, Hadash Chairman MK Mohammad Barakeh told Ynet that he explained to Olmert that "in order to provide security to citizens of the state, he must accelerate the political process and immediately end the siege on Gaza and its residents, which is causing a humanitarian crisis.
"The prime minister answered us by saying that from the figures he is receiving he is not aware of any humanitarian crisis in the Strip, and he claimed there would not be one," Barakeh added.
Hadash members have succeeded in organizing dozens of trucks loaded with food and medicine and have requested to that they be allowed to enter Gaza.
"The prime minister agreed but said (the trucks) would be subject to the regular (security) checks. His comment will be judged once it is carried out," Barakeh said.
Sharon Roffe-Ofir contribute to this report