Militants Firing Mortars Towards Israel; Convoy Attacked

Thursday, January 22, 2009 | Tag Cloud

By George Whitten, Jerusalem Bureau Chief

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (Worthy News) –- Humanitarian aid continued to flow into Gaza on Thursday, January 23, despite nearly a dozen mortar shells being fired towards Israel so far, officials said, and reports of a Jordanian convoy being attacked by suspected Hamas militants.

Eleven mortars were fired from the Gaza Strip near border crossing points on Tuesday, some 24 hours after the Hamas group announced a ceasefire with Israel, Israel's Foreign Ministry said in comments obtained by Worthy News.

It came as Jordanian media reported that a Jordanian aid convoy was hijacked by armed men who began shooting at drivers when they entered the Gaza Strip through the Karem Abu Salem border crossing.

Jordan said it had suspended aid shipments on Tuesday, January 21, and Wednesday, January 22, following the attack.

In Tuesday's incident, the armed men allegedly forced the Jordanians to bring their aid to the militant's own warehouses, according to Jordanian press reports. There were no reports of injuries during the confrontation.

Despite the tensions, “There’s a lot of aid coming into Gaza by different Christian aid organizations,” several pastors in the West Bank told Worthy News.

U.N. PRESSURE

The United Nations has pressured Israel to fully open its crossing points for more humanitarian aid to enter into Gaza Strip. Yet, the U.N. has not done enough to pressured Egypt to open its Rafah border, Israeli officials claimed.

However the U.N. said Thursday, January 23, that it has asked Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to open for Rafah humanitarian aid.

Many people attempting to enter the Gaza Strip, including journalists, wait up to several days at the border crossing in Rafah, because of Egyptian security procedures, according to witnesses.

"Israel is not the only country trying to isolate Hamas. Egypt has full control of the Rafah border crossing and they haven’t fully opened the border to allow any goods into Gaza as well," Israel's Foreign Ministry told Worthy News.

However, Israel says that even during its 22-day offensive against Hamas, it allowed over 1,300 trucks transporting humanitarian aid to civilians into the Gaza Strip.

Yet, Israel's government has defended its decision to impose limitations on movements, saying it is concerned over reports that Hamas is again using tunnels to smuggle weapons. Israel has threatened to respond militarily, should Hamas continue to rearm itself.

TUNNELS DESTROYED

Most of the tunnels were destroyed in the offensive, but smugglers have been quoted as saying the tunnels could be be fully operational again, within weeks.

Meanwhile, the European Union confirmed that it is debating with Israel how a  lasting cease-fire and smooth access for humanitarian aid can be achieved, without arms smuggling into the Strip.

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana said the EU was ready to return to Rafah and other border points provided the cease-fire is maintained.

Next Sunday, the EU will meet in Brussels with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority, he told reporters. In addition, Solana said, "We have to really get to work with Egypt" on the Rafah crossing.

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