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Olmert Says Electricity, Fuel Cuts to Gaza Will Continue


Israel says it plans to continue crippling sanctions on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, despite international opposition. The announcement was made as three Palestinian gunmen and a civilian were killed in Israeli raids in Gaza. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says the reduction of electricity and fuel supplies to Gaza will continue until Palestinian rocket attacks stop.

Mr. Olmert told the Cabinet a war is going on in southern Israel. He said Israel would not ease up on terrorist leaders until life along the Gaza border returns to normal.

Palestinian officials and the European Union have demanded that Israel end the sanctions, describing them as collective punishment.

The Cabinet met as a delegation from the United Nations and United States visited the Israeli border town of Sderot that has been hard hit by Palestinian rockets.

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes condemned the rocket attacks, but said people on both sides of the Gaza border are suffering.

"The situations are different, completely different. The physical conditions, obviously, in many ways are much worse in Gaza," said Holmes. "But people living under rockets, which they feel are deliberately aimed at civilians, they are obviously going to feel genuine sufferings."

Senator John Kyl of the U.S. state of Arizona said the problem of the rockets begins with weapons smuggling from Egypt to Gaza. He said the United States is using aid to Egypt for leverage.

"The United States Congress has put limitations on the money that the Congress sends to Egypt, limitations which require Egypt to take a stronger position in stopping the smuggling. Clearly the smuggling has not stopped," said Kyl.

Shortly after the delegation left Sderot, a rocket struck a house in the town, causing damage, but no injuries.

Fighting also continued inside Gaza, where Israeli troops backed by tanks and helicopters clashed with Palestinian gunmen.

The tense situation on the Gaza border will be on the agenda when Mr. Olmert meets Tuesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

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