Hamas: Israel Must Open Rafah Crossing for Truce Talks to Succeed

Israeli farmers: We cannot go on living in fear; IDF troops, police allow protest at Sufa crossing to continue.

Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan on Monday accused Israel of putting obstacles in front of Egyptian efforts to achieve a ceasefire between Israel and the militant group by refusing to open the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

"The Rafah border must be opened as part of the calm," Radwan said, repeating Hamas' demand that Egypt open the crossing if Israel doesn't.

Although the Rafah crossing lies on the Gaza-Egypt border, the passage has been closed because Europeans monitoring the crossing require Israeli security clearance to operate. That clearance has not been given since Hamas took over Gaza.

The Hamas statement came after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting that Gaza's Rafah border crossing with Egypt will not be opened for the time being, according to a participant at the meeting.

Hamas wants the crossing reopened and a role in monitoring the border - a concession that would be tantamount to recognizing the Islamic group's rule of Gaza. Egypt has rejected that demand, and called for a return to the 2005 agreement that gives Israel and EU monitors a supervisory role.

The breakdown of the indirect truce talks would increase the likelihood that Israel would launch a threatened major military operation in Gaza against rocket and mortar squads. Olmert reiterated such a possibility in his remarks before the committee on Monday, meeting participants said.

In January, Hamas militants frustrated by the Israeli blockade blew holes in the border wall with Egypt at Rafah, allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to stream out of Gaza unchecked and stock up on food, fuel and other goods made scarce by the blockade. Egypt sealed the border less than two weeks later.

Olmert told lawmakers that Israel would continue to open other Gaza crossings to humanitarian aid.

"We won't allow optimal conditions in Gaza, but we won't allow starvation, nor will we prevent medicines from entering Gaza," he was quoted as saying.

Palestinians have carried out a series of attacks on Israeli frontier terminals in the past two weeks, most recently a failed suicide truck bombing carried out by Islamic Jihad last week at the main passage for Gazans seeking medical treatment.

Palestinian officials on Monday said that around 200,000 people in northern Gaza are without running water or power as a result of the truck bombing.

The explosion cut two of the seven major power lines that come in from Israel, and the Israel Defense Forces has launched concerted efforts to repair the damaged lines.

Israel already restricts fuel supplies to Gaza to pressure Palestinian militants to stop their attacks. That has meant northern residents can't use electric generators or pump water from wells.

On Monday, an Islamic Jihad spokesman said the group didn't mean to cut off power but warned of more attacks

Negev farmers on Gaza border block goods into Strip to protest rocket fire

Around 30 farmers from Gaza boder communities in the Negev blocked the transfer of goods into Gaza Monday in protest of the continued rocket fire from the Strip.

IDF troops and police officers were present at the Sufa crossing but they were not intervening to stop the farmers from blocking the entry of goods into the Strip.

"We want quiet and security. We cannot go on living in fear. Therefore, we ask that as long as rockets fall, no food be transferred into Gaza," said one of the protestors from Yated.

The organizer of the protest, Itamar Gilad from Moshav Dekel, said that the protestors will continue to block the crossing everyday, until the rocket fire has stopped.

"We know that 80 percent of the goods are from farmers in the area", Gilad said, "but we are willing to lose money if we gain our lives. The area around Gaza is still part of Israel and is not a settlement, yet we are fighting for our basic security."

Another protestor, Haim Yalin, supports blocking the goods into Gaza but says that some food and medicine must be allowed to enter.

"Even when your worst enemy is in captivity, you give him food and water," Yalin said.