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Israel Threatens Trade Sanctions Against Palestinians

Israel has frozen a Gaza border security agreement with the Palestinian Authority and is warning of tougher action. Israel wants stronger measures to curb Palestinian terrorism.

Israel is threatening to impose trade sanctions on the Palestinians, if they do not tighten security immediately at the newly opened Gaza border crossing with Egypt. Israeli officials say terrorists and weapons are being smuggled across the border, in violation of a U.S.-brokered agreement.

Israeli spokesman Mark Regev told VOA that terrorists from Hamas and al-Qaida have been crossing the border. "These Islamic extremists want to energize the extremists inside Gaza. It's very important that we have a security situation on the ground, a defensive system, border controls and so forth, so as not to allow these activists into the Gaza Strip," he said.

Officials say the army could tighten restrictions on the Gaza-Israel border, a move that could harm trade and cripple the already battered Palestinian economy. What we're hoping to achieve is agreements and understandings that will allow both for the maximum flow of people and goods in and out of Gaza and at the same time deal seriously with the very real security challenges," he said.

Those security challenges were reinforced by Israel's discovery of a tunnel running from Gaza, under the border fence and into Israel. The army said terrorist groups planned to smuggle gunmen across the border to carry out attacks on Israeli communities.

The tunnel was uncovered after Hamas, the biggest Palestinian militant group, threatened to pull out of the 10-month-old cease-fire and resume attacks. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas appealed for calm. "We have agreed to a truce," Mr. Abbas said. "And therefore, we should continue

with it until security prevails," he said, "so our people will not feel threatened by Israeli planes and tanks," he said.

Israel says Mr. Abbas is saying the right words, but he is not taking any action. The Israelis are urging him to keep his commitment under the internationally backed "road map" peace plan and disarm militant groups.