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Israel briefly opens Gaza borders

Palestinians in Gaza
It is only the fifth time in a month Israel has allowed aid into Gaza

Israel has temporarily reopened some border crossings with the Gaza Strip to allow in essential aid supplies.

The shipments included diesel fuel for Gaza's only power plant, and fuel for a UN agency that distributes aid to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

It is the fifth time in a month Israel has allowed aid into Gaza, which the UN says is facing a humanitarian crisis.

Israel tightened its blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory in November after rocket attacks by militants.

The militants said their rocket attacks, which caused minor damage but no serious injuries, were in retaliation for an Israeli army raid into Gaza on 4 November, the day of the US presidential election.

The recent violence has called into question a ceasefire agreed in July between the Israeli army and the Islamist militants.

Dignity docks

UN officials have urged Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to ease the blockade.

Meanwhile, a boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists and medical supplies docked in Gaza City after sailing from Cyprus.

Gaza map

It was the fourth such trip by the California-based Free Gaza Movement to break Israel's blockade, after similar trips in August, October, and November.

The small yacht, Dignity, carried British academics, a British surgeon, human rights workers and journalists.

They said their aim was to highlight the plight of hundreds of Gazan students who have been unable to attend their classes abroad because of the blockade.

Mike Cushman, a professor at the UK's London School of Economics (LSE), said the boat would set sail with some of the students on board "so they can continue their studying", AFP news agency reported.

Israel's blockade has meant that since last month the Gaza Strip has been closed to virtually all supplies, and Palestinians inside the territory have had to deal with food shortages, lengthy power cuts and no cooking gas.

The situation has led the UN to describe conditions there as the "worst ever".

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