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Quartet Meeting to Be Held over Crossing Problem
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Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat asserted on Monday that a quartet meeting over Israeli closure of Palestinian outlets in the Gaza Strip would be held later Monday in an effort to avoid humanitarian crisis.

Erekat told the Voice of Palestine radio that the meeting to beheld at Kerem Shalom crossing, east of Rafah town in southern Gaza Strip, would be attended by Egyptian, Israeli, the US and Palestinian officials.

Kerem Shalom crossing, which is located inside Israel and at the corner of the border with Gaza and Egypt, might be opened immediately following the Monday's meeting, said Erekat, stressing the importance of US help in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiation as Israel would allow only five to ten loaded-trucks into Gaza each day.

"We know in advance the Israeli style of negotiations, therefore we said we need the Americans with us," Erekat added.

Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported that Israeli and Palestinian officials and international peace brokers reached a temporary agreement on Sunday that humanitarian aid would enter the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Gaza-Israel border.

According to the report, representatives of the United States, the European Union and Egypt as well as Israeli and Palestinian officials attended the meeting in Tel Aviv to discuss how to ease severe shortage of food and other daily necessities in the Gaza Strip.

The senior Palestinian official disclosed that another meeting between Palestinian, US and Israeli officials would also be held on Monday to discuss the reopening of Karni industrial crossing, Erez and Sofa crossing.

Israel has shut the Karni commercial terminal, the main cargo crossing and supply route between Israel and Gaza, out of security concerns. The Jewish state said it had no immediate plan to reopen it.

As for Rafah crossing on the Gaza-Egypt border which has been closed since the European Union (EU) monitors withdrew from the crossing on Tuesday out of security concerns, Erekat said "we don't want to be surprised by the European monitors' departure from Rafah crossing" as EU monitors did in Jericho.

The Israeli army raided Palestinian Jericho prison early last Tuesday, demanding the surrender of Ahmed Saadat, leader of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and five other militants.

The Palestinians have denounced that the prison, which under the supervision of monitors from the two countries, were raided by Israeli forces only 10 minutes after the monitors withdrew from the prison at 9:20 AM (07:20 GMT).

However, Erekat assured EU monitors that the Palestinian side would guarantee their safety. "We informed them that we are ready to protect you and to carry out all your demands." "We want to start exporting from Gaza Strip to Egypt, we want for the (Rafah) crossing to be opened around the clock as the Europeans exist to protect it from shutting it down," he added. He worried that the Gaza Strip would returned to the stage of full closure if Israel insisted to closed down Rafah crossing following the Europeans' withdrawal.

Citing security concerns, Israel has closed the crossings for most of the past two months.

Palestinians sources said serious food shortages in the Gaza Strip have forced dozens of bakeries to close down their doors and restaurants stopped offering meals as dozens of Palestinians stood in long lines in front of few bakeries where there are some bread left.

Palestinian Minister of Economy Mazen Sonokrot has recently warned of a humanitarian disaster in the Strip because the wheat and flour have run out for days.

(Xinhua News Agency March 21, 2006)


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