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Israel to open Gaza aid 'humanitarian corridor'
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Israel has decided to set up "a humanitarian corridor" in the Gaza Strip to deliver basic supplies to local residents, said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office on early Wednesday morning. The Israeli army also said Wednesday that it will hold fire for three hours every day to allow local residents to receive basic supplies.

"This would entail opening geographic areas for certain periods of time during which the population would be able to equip itself and receive the assistance," said the office in a statement.

Details of where and when Israel would suspend its assault were to be determined by a special authority, said the statement, adding that the move came from "a security establishment proposal" and was aimed to "prevent a humanitarian crisis" in Gaza.

Although Israel has pledged to ease the humanitarian situation while carrying out the offensive and has allowed hundreds of truckloads of supplies into the enclave, the United Nations and Gaza officials have said the impoverished and crowded strip is already bracing for a worsening humanitarian crisis due to shortages of food, fuel and medicine.

Over 600 have been killed and some 2,700 others wounded in Gaza since the Israeli Operation Cast Lead began on December 27, and the death toll is expected to rise. On the Israeli side, 10 have been killed so far, including six soldiers fallen in two fiercely fire incidents.

Amid growing international pressure for an immediate ceasefire, the Israeli leadership will meet on Wednesday to decide whether to expand the ongoing ground operation. Local news service Ynet reported that should it be approved, tens of thousands of reserve soldiers would be brought into the battle in order to tighten the rope around Hamas' neck.

Meanwhile, the Jewish state is seeking a desirable exit out of the 12-day-old warfare, with the United States, its staunch ally, insisting on a "durable and sustainable" ceasefire, which many analysts said and it is Israel's ultimate realistic goal.

(Xinhua News Agency January 7, 2009)

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