Israel on Thursday reopened its border crossings with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to journalists and international aid workers, lifting a month-long ban that has been vocally protested.
The decision was made by the defense establishment, which would also allow Palestinians to pass through the border crossings for medical treatment, said Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner.
The green light came amid strong protests from foreign journalists against the travel ban, which was imposed after clashes resumed between Israel and Hamas four weeks ago. Israel's Foreign Press Association last week condemned the prohibitive move as a violation of press freedoms.
Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry on Thursday also permitted, for the fourth time in a month, the delivery of some food, fuel and other basic supplies into the impoverished strip, which a spokesperson said was a goodwill gesture ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha next week.
The Israel-Gaza border has largely been kept closed since Nov. 4 when Israeli army killed six Hamas gunmen in an operation inside the Palestinian enclave and Hamas responded with a barrage of rockets. Scores of rockets, including one on Thursday, have since been fired at southern Israel, and over a dozen of Palestinian militants have been killed.
Israeli officials have said that despite recent flare-ups, the Jewish state is interested in maintaining an Egypt-brokered Gaza truce whose first six-month phase expires in two weeks, while Hamas said the group intended to renegotiate the ceasefire terms.
(Xinhua News Agency December 4, 2008)