Hanan Greenberg
September 22, 2008 - 8:00pm

The defense establishment is currently assessing the possibility of reducing commodities transferred daily to the Gaza Strip in an effort to press Hamas to proceed with negotiations on the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai confirmed this report in an interview with Ynet Tuesday, in which he said the matter would be discussed and possibly carried out in the coming weeks.

Before the ceasefire the siege on the Strip was an important factor in halting the rocket fire towards Sderot and the Gaza vicinity towns.

According to Vilani an agreement with Egypt would prevent Israel from reinstating a siege, but a decrease in goods allowed to cross into Gaza can be considered. Since the signing of the truce with Hamas, commodities have increased by 15%, and fuel supply has risen from 2.2 million liters to 2.9 million.

The defense establishment currently halts the transfer of commodities for 24-48 hours whenever rockets are fired at Israel from the Strip, a strategy claimed to force Hamas into more efficiently maintaining the ceasefire.

"We will probably have to decrease the amount of goods going in, thus putting more pressure on Hamas, which is purposefully refraining from taking steps to promote negotiations, including absenting itself from meetings with Egypt," Vilnai said.

"Hamas understands it is holding an important bargaining chip, it has not been arriving at meetings with Egypt, and we need to act in a way that will make them understand."

Officials have expressed fear that the decrease in goods may provide the terror organizations in the Strip with a pretext for the renewal of Qassam fire. To this Vilnai answered that "the consequences must be considered carefully beforehand."


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