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Israel Keeps Gaza Blockade Despite UN Pleas


Israel is keeping its border with the Gaza Strip closed, despite pleas by the United Nations to allow humanitarian aid into the Palestinian territory.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio Wednesday there must be calm before the border crossings can open.

Israel sealed the border earlier this month after fighting erupted between Israeli troops and Hamas militants. It has allowed some fuel and vital supplies to enter the territory, but Gazans still lack many basic goods.

The United Nations said Wednesday it will have to suspend cash assistance to 98,000 poor Gazans because of a shortage of currency in the territory.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon phoned Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Tuesday to express his concern about the humanitarian situation.

A U.N. statement said Mr. Ban urged the Israeli leader to facilitate the movement of humanitarian supplies and U.N. personnel into the Gaza Strip. The statement said Mr. Olmert agreed to look seriously into Mr. Ban's concerns.

In the West Bank Wednesday, an Israeli court-ordered deadline has expired for Jewish settlers to leave a four-story building in the city of Hebron.

The settlers have 30 days to leave voluntarily after which security forces could be called in to forcibly evict them.

In Jerusalem Wednesday, Israeli security forces evicted a Palestinian couple from the tent they had been living in since being evicted from their home earlier this month.

Israeli authorities said they took action because the tent was on public property. The husband and wife had set up the tent near their old home.

At least two of the couple's supporters were detained in the crackdown.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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