Basic Supplies Pass Through Sufa and Karni Crossings

Israel permitted the transfer of basic supplies into the Gaza Strip yesterday through the Sufa and Karni crossings, but those goods not considered to meet humanitarian needs, such as sweeteners, clothing and construction materials, are still not being allowed into the territory. The transfer of goods into the Gaza Strip is part of the cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas, mediated by Egypt, that went into effect last Thursday.

The Erez crossing was opened yesterday, allowing those persons requiring medical treatment in Israel to leave the Strip.

"Things seem to be moving faster and we are not waiting too long in line," said Gabi Shweiki, who delivered water melons yesterday through the Sufa crossing. "But for the time being they are only allowing other types of goods through. I know the owners of trucking companies who are stuck with goods the Palestinians have paid for but they cannot receive them," he added.

While the opening of the crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel goes into effect, there is still no official decision on opening the crossing at Rafah between the Strip and Sinai.

In part Israel is moving slowly on the Rafah crossing as a central bargaining chip to pressure Hamas to release abducted soldier Gilad Shalit.

However, according to the defense establishment, the Rafah crossing has been opened frequently, whether Israel wants it or not. During the past year, since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007, Egypt has opened the crossing into its territory no less than 50 times.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and other government officials stressed in recent weeks that the Rafah crossing is the the main leverage in resolving the Shalit issue. Officially, the reopening of the Rafah crossing is conditional on Israel's agreement, which falls under the peace accords between Israel and Egypt. However, in practice Egypt decides unilaterally when to open and close the crossing, and Cairo has permitted its opening for short periods for the passage of medical patients, students and others who found themselves in Sinai without being able to cross back into the Gaza Strip.