Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Thursday, 11 December 2008

Israel allows Gaza cash delivery

Arab Bank in Gaza City (4 Dec)
Banks in the Gaza Strip have been forced to close

Israel has eased its blockade of the Gaza Strip to allow an armoured truck carrying the equivalent of $25m (16m) to enter from the West Bank.

The delivery is to ease a serious cash shortage at Gaza's banks, many of which have been forced to close.

Israeli officials authorised the shipment after a request by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

But the shipment is less than half of what Mr Fayyad said was needed to pay Gaza's civil servants this month.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza depend on the salaries earned by public sector workers.

Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, approved the transfer of 100m shekels following a request from the Bank of Israel's governor, Stanley Fischer.

In a statement, the bank said it did not want to be responsible for the possible collapse of the Palestinian banking system.

The Palestinian treasury said in a statement on Thursday: "Civil servants in the Gaza Strip will be able to receive their salaries as of tonight."

International pressure

Mr Barak has also come under pressure from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and Middle East envoy Tony Blair.

The transfer has been denounced by some Israeli cabinet ministers, who want to increase pressure on Hamas to free a captured Israeli soldier.

Hamas Islamists seized the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after routing secular Fatah forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

The Israeli military then tightened its blockade of Gaza following renewed violence at the start of November.

However, on Tuesday Israel 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 was the fifth time in a month that Israel had allowed aid into Gaza, which the UN says is facing a humanitarian crisis.

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