Protesters try to block truck carrying NIS 100 million en route to Gaza
Defense Minister Barak on Wednesday approved transfer, which other ministers have called foolish.
Protesters rallying for the release of the abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit tried to prevent armored trucks carrying NIS 100 million ($25 million) from entering Gaza on Thursday, one day after Defense Minister Barak approved the transfer to ease the Hamas government's cash shortage.
Despite the protests, the truck arrived safely in Gaza and the transfer has funds has been completed.
It was the first time Israel has let money enter Gaza since October. Israel suspended the transfer of cash after Gaza militants renewed their rocket and mortar attacks, in violation of a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas. The money came from Palestinian banks in the West Bank.
Yoel Marshak of the lobby for Gilad Shalit's release said "a humanitarian crisis in Gaza is not what we're after, but when money is involved we demand that every transfer be dependant on a reciprocal transfer of information about Shalit's fate. We don't want a new Ron Arad," he said, referring to the Israel Air Force navigator who went missing in Lebanon in 1986, and whose whereabouts are still unknown.
The suspension of cash transfers has caused cash shortages at Gaza banks. Palestinian salaries weren't paid in full, and aid groups weren't able to hand out money to Gaza's needy.
Barak approved the cash transfer on Wednesday after special appeals to him from both the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer.
Vice Premier Haim Ramon and Kadima MK Tzachi Hanegbi both called Barak's decision as foolish. Hanegbi added that Israel cannot transfer funds to Gaza, while abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is still in captivity.
Right-wing faction Yisrael Beiteinu on Wednesday criticized Barak, saying that the NIS 100 million being transferred to Gaza will be returned to Israel in the form of 100,000 Qassam rockets. The party also accused Barak of pandering to the Palestinians.
The activists were planning to demonstrate outside the Prime Minister's Office on Friday, demanding that Olmert work to release Shalit and hand a "clean slate" over to his successor.
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