Ibrahim Barzak
The Boston Globe
June 23, 2008 - 2:51pm

Israel allowed dozens of trucks to deliver food, diapers and clothes to the Gaza Strip on Sunday, boosting the flow of basic goods as part of a four-day-old truce with Hamas militants.

Further increases are expected if the quiet continues, offering the prospect of relief for Gazans after a year of Israeli sanctions against the Hamas regime.

The six-month deal is meant to end attacks that have killed more than 400 Palestinians and seven Israelis since the Islamic Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip a year ago, and pave the way toward wider-reaching agreements.

The truce has been holding since it began Thursday, evidence that both sides have an interest in the unsigned accord.

Hamas wants credit for ending the blockade and the legitimacy of reaching even an indirect agreement with Israel. Israel needs the halt in daily rocket attacks that disrupted the lives of thousands in the border area. Critics say it gives Hamas a chance to rearm.

On Sunday, 90 truckloads of supplies were transferred from Israeli to Palestinian vehicles at a Gaza crossing, up from between 60 and 70 before the truce went into effect, said military spokesman Gil Karie.

Ihab Ghussen, a spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry in Gaza, said the increase was in keeping with the terms of the truce brokered by Egypt.

Other goods barred from Gaza during a yearlong economic blockade, like cement, are supposed to be allowed in 10 days after the beginning of the truce, Ghussen said.

Among goods shipped Sunday were milk, fruit and vegetables, diapers, toilet paper and shoes, Palestinian security officials said.

The amount of fuel sent into Gaza remained unchanged Sunday. Israel has slashed fuel shipments in response to attacks from Gaza, leading to a severe shortage and crippling transportation in the territory.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said fuel supplies would be increased at a later stage, but he did not say how much or when.

On Sunday, Hamas' exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal, told reporters in Syria that the militant group was committed to the truce as long as Israel is.

Hamas militiamen were seen taking up positions near the crossings to monitor the flow of traffic.

Hamas seeks an eventual role in policing the crossings, perhaps with security personnel loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas or an international force acting as a buffer between the Islamic militants and Israeli troops.

Egypt worked for months to mediate the truce between Israel and Hamas, since the bitter enemies do not deal with each other directly.

In agreeing to the truce, Israel dropped an earlier demand that Hamas free an Israeli soldier it is holding as a condition for the cease-fire. Hamas militants seized Gilad Schalit in a cross-border raid in 2006, killing two other members of his tank crew.

Israel's Supreme Court heard a petition Sunday from Schalit's parents to block the deal. His parents said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other officials promised them Gaza's border crossings would not be opened as long as their son remained in captivity.

A decision was expected Monday.


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