Israel holds Gaza fire for ‘humanitarian corridor’

JERUSALEM (JTA) –The Israel Defense Forces opened a Humanitarian Affairs Coordination Center in Tel Aviv. 

The center, which opened Wednesday, will coordinate the organizations operating in the Gaza Strip and those of the IDF and will not replace existing structures, according to the IDF spokesman’s office. The center will place its priority on the evacuation of foreign nationals and coordinating the flow of food, fuel and supplies to the humanitarian organizations based in Gaza.

Organizations represented include the International Committee of the Red Cross, USAID, World Food Program, the European Commission, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East, UNRWA and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as well as Israeli governmental agencies and IDF departments.

Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen resumed in the Gaza Strip following the expiration of a three-hour truce to allow in humanitarian aid and to let Gaza civilians restock provisions.

Residents of the northern Gaza Strip had reported exchanges of fire between Israeli soldiers and Hamas militants during the temporary truce period Wednesday afternoon. In Gaza City, hundreds had taken to the streets during the hiatus, shopping and visiting relatives.

Israel held its fire on Gaza for several hours to allow civilians to leave their homes and restock necessary provisions. 

The "humanitarian pause" during midday Wednesday, the 12th day of Operation Cast Lead, was also scheduled to allow food aid and medicine to enter the strip and to allow for repairs of essential infrastructure.

Some 80 truckloads of supplies were to pass into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing during the pause, as well as 132,000 gallons of heavy diesel fuel through the Nahal Oz terminal and nearly 16,000 gallons of fuel by truck through Kerem Shalom.

Hamas indicated, though not explicitly, that it would halt rocket fire during the pause.

Olmert announced what he called the "humanitarian corridor" Tuesday night. Olmert presented the idea in a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The humanitarian pause will be implemented every other day, according to a statement from Defense Ministry’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories division.

Rocket fire on Israel continued after the hiatus with rockets falling in Beersheva shortly after it ended. At least 14 rockets struck Israel Wednesday morning following a night without attacks. One long-range Grad rocket landed on residential property in Ashkelon, where two people were treated for shock. A building was also damaged by a Grad missile in Ashdod, injuring one person.

School remains canceled in all southern Israeli communities within a 25-mile radius of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli Air Force struck more than 40 targets Wednesday, including smuggling tunnels, rocket launching sites, armed terror cells, tunnels dug under houses and a weapons storage facility, according to the spokesman’s office.

 

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