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Despite Israeli Blockade, Palestinian President Reaffirms Commitment to Peace


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he remains committed to peace talks, despite the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and heavy fighting there between Hamas militants and Israeli forces. VOA's Jim Teeple reports international aid agencies have appealed for $462 million in aid for the Palestinians.

Speaking in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he will continue talks with Israel, despite the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Abbas says Palestinians should intensify their contacts with Israel because that is the best way to end the suffering of the Palestinian people. He says Palestinians should not turn their backs on Israel, because that will end any chance of dialogue.

Mr. Abbas spoke as Israel temporarily lifted its blockade of Gaza to allow emergency fuel, food, and medicine into the territory. He condemned the rocket attacks against Israel launched by Palestinian militants, but he also called for Israel not to punish innocent civilians in Gaza who he says are not responsible for the attacks.

Mr. Abbas also said his Fatah security forces could take control of the crossing points between Gaza and Israel, which he said could ease the crisis. Israel has not commented on the issue, but U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Mr. Abbas' proposal is worth studying.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is warning Gaza's fragile infrastructure could collapse if Israel does not allow regular deliveries of humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

International relief groups - mostly U.N. agencies - have issued an appeal for $462 million in aid to the Palestinians this year. The deputy commissioner of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, Filipo Grandi, says the aid is needed most in Gaza.

"We need to make sure that emergency assistance, food cash, for cash grants, fuel for generators, and for house consumption and hospitals, we need to make sure these basic items go in [to Gaza] no matter what the political situation," Grandi said. "These are emergency necessities that override any other consideration."

Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinian protesters, mostly women, broke through the Gaza Strip's southern border into Egypt before being pushed back by Egyptian and Hamas police. About 60 people were injured in the incident - some severely. The protesters were demanding to be allowed into Egypt for emergency medical care.

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