Sunday, January 20, 2008
Israel's decision Friday to tighten its siege of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip by closing all borders and blocking fuel supplies has added to Palestinian skepticism about the Jewish state's intentions in peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. Gaza's main power station shut down Sunday, plunging parts of the territory into darkness, even though most of the area's electricity comes from Israel and Egypt and that supply has not been interrupted. Less than a third of Gaza's power comes from the main power station, Israeli and Palestinian officials said. An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said the blockade was in response to continuing missile attacks from Gaza and "everything would go back to normal" if the rocket fire stopped. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose government was driven from Gaza by Hamas forces last June, called on Israel to reopen the border crossings and on Gazans to stop giving Israel "justification" for its siege. Hamas refuses to recognize the existence of Israel. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are in the midst of negotiations for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on territory captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war. But relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which seem to have improved since U.S. President George W. Bush's recent visit to the region, have been complicated by the Gaza situation and by yesterday's comments by Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, who said his group was holding body parts of Israeli soldiers killed in a 34-day war in 2006.