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Israel keeps Gaza border closed

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Israel keeps Gaza border closedHisham Abu Taha  GAZA CITY: Israel kept the Gaza Strip closed for the second straight day yesterday as Palestinians fired a rocket into northern Israel.

Following discussions Wednesday night between Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai and officials of his ministry, it was decided not to open the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Israel closed the border Tuesday evening after Islamic Jihad fired a couple of rockets into Israel hours after Israeli forces killed one of the group’s commanders and another youth during a raid on the West Bank city of Nablus.

Yesterday Palestinian fighters fired a homemade rocket at the Western Negev. Israeli media said the rocket exploded in an open area near a Negev industrial zone. There were no injuries or damages.

An Egyptian-mediated truce between Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza, entailed a gradual easing of an embargo Israel imposes on the Palestinian enclave, but this stopped after Tuesday’s attacks.

“We will apply the pact on the suspension of attacks if Israel also respects it,” Jihad spokesman Daoud Shihab said after talks with Gaza authorities.

Asked when supplies would again be allowed into Gaza, Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner said: “This will depend on the security situation, there is an ongoing evaluation.”

While the World Bank says the embargo imposed after Hamas seized power a year ago has crippled the Gaza economy, Israel insists it has always allowed in enough supplies — mostly foreign aid — to avoid a humanitarian disaster.

Under the cease-fire, the flow of goods into the territory is meant to rise gradually. The truce, which took effect last Thursday and is known locally as the “calm,” does not cover the West Bank, but several Palestinian groups have threatened to retaliate for any Israeli operations there.

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had no immediate comment on the latest rocket strike.

“The rocket attack was in response to Israeli violations. Any calm deal must end Israeli attacks on our people in the West Bank too,” said Abu Qusai, spokesman for Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

— With input from agencies