Israel has authorized the transfer of money into the Gaza Strip, where an Israeli blockade has caused a severe cash shortage.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved the transfer of $25 million Wednesday, but the amount is far short of what Palestinian officials said is needed to pay civil servants.

Israel tightened its blockade of Gaza last month after a surge in cross-border rocket attacks by militants.  It has allowed a few convoys of humanitarian aid in, but shortages in food, fuel and other supplies are widespread.

The United Nations Human Rights Council Tuesday urged Israel to take steps to ease the plight of Palestinians.

A U.N. official for human rights in the Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, issued a stronger rebuke in a statement, saying the International Criminal Court should investigate the situation in Hamas-run Gaza, likening Israeli policies to a "crime against humanity."

The French News Agency today quoted an Israeli spokesman, Yigal Palmor, as saying Falk's credibility "suffered a major blow" with that assessment.  Palmor said the situation in Gaza is the direct result of the violence inflicted by Hamas.

Israel and Egypt closed their borders with Gaza for most traffic after the Hamas militant group took control of the territory last year.

In other news, a United Nations spokeswoman, Michele Montas, on Tuesday announced that the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will meet at the U.N. in New York on December 15.  

The Quartet is made up of the European Union, Russia, the U.N. and the United States.  The group has strongly backed peace talks that were launched in Annapolis, Maryland last year, even though few expect an agreement by the end of this year, as originally planned. 


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