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UNRWA Sets Up Gaza Aid Fund

The United Nations aid agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) has unveiled a plan for Gazans to rebuild their battered territory after a three-week war with Israel.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen Abu Zayed said Tuesday in Jordan that the agency has established a $345-million recovery fund, adding that about half of that money already has been collected.

Access to food, water and health care was greatly disrupted during the Israeli offensive, aimed at stopping Hamas militant fire into southern Israel. Housing and other infrastructure were heavily damaged.

Also Tuesday, a leading media rights group said Israel's closing of Gaza to journalists during the conflict was an unacceptable violation of press freedom. Reporters Without Borders urged the United Nations to call on Israel to stop using what it called "coercive" methods to control the news.

The rights group said Hamas also violated press freedoms, saying journalists feared reprisals if they reported any criticism of the Islamist movement.

Both Israel and Hamas declared unilateral cease-fires last month, and Egypt continues to mediate efforts to forge a durable truce.

Israel's security Cabinet is due to meet Wednesday to discuss its latest step.

Hamas wants Israel to open all of Gaza's border crossings, including one to Egypt. Israeli officials said they will not consider the demand until Hamas frees Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured in Gaza more than two years ago.

Hamas says Shalit's freedom must be negotiated separately. It is demanding the release of hundreds of prisoners, including militants responsible for suicide attacks, in exchange for the captured soldier.