WASHINGTON - A new initiative by members of the United States Congress seeks to condition the transfer of the $900 million for the Palestinians on an end to rocket fire on Israel from Gaza, and the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged the $900 million during a conference in Egypt this week to raise money for Gaza reconstruction, in the wake of Israel's three-week offensive aimed at halting rocket fire on its southern communities.
Shalit has been held captive in Gaza since June 2006, when he was snatched from his army base in a cross-border raid from Gaza.
The proposal followed a meeting on Capitol Hill between Noam Badin, the director of the communications center in Qassam-battered Sderot and several members of Congress and their advisors.
After the meeting, Rep. Shelley Berkley of Nevada drafted a petition to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which demanded that the financial aid be delayed for as long as the rocket fire continues and Shalit remains in captivity.
Berkley, a Jewish politician well-known in Congress for her support of Israel, backed the Israeli operation in Gaza during December and January, and even told Haaretz that maybe Israel had been too tolerant.
State Department spokesman Robert Wood said last week that $300 million of the total sum pledged by the U.S. would go to meet "urgent" humanitarian needs in Gaza.
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