Gaza truce holds

Israel increased the trickle of badly needed goods flowing into the Gaza Strip today, a military spokesman said, in the latest stage of a four-day-old truce with Hamas militants.

Israel increased the trickle of badly needed goods flowing into the Gaza Strip today, a military spokesman said, in the latest stage of a four-day-old truce with Hamas militants.

A total of 90 truckloads of supplies were set to enter Gaza throughout the day, up from between 60 and 70 before the truce went into effect, said spokesman 2nd Lt. Gil Karie. Further increases are expected if the quiet continues.

Ihab Ghussen, a spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry in Gaza, said the increase was in keeping with the terms of the truce brokered by Egypt. The goods include milk, fruits and vegetables and other food products. Other goods, like cement, are supposed to be allowed in 10 days after the beginning of the truce, Ghussen said.

The amount of fuel sent into Gaza remained unchanged. Israel has slashed fuel shipments in response to attacks from Gaza, leading to a severe shortage and crippling transportation in the territory. Israel has not said whether fuel supplies will be increased as part of the truce.

The truce has been holding since it went into effect on Thursday morning following months of clashes between the Israeli military and Gaza militants firing rockets at Israeli towns and attacking Israeli troops along the border.

A rocket warning system sounded an alert in southern Israel early today, sending residents scrambling for bomb shelters. But the military said no rocket had been fired and the alert was likely the result of a technical malfunction.

In agreeing to the truce, Israel dropped an earlier demand that Hamas free an Israeli soldier it is holding as a condition for the cease-fire. Hamas militants seized Gilad Schalit in a cross-border raid in 2006, killing two other members of his tank crew.

Israel’s Supreme Court was due to hear a petition Sunday from Mr Schalit’s parents to block the deal, saying Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other officials promised them Gaza’s border crossings would not be opened as long as their son remained in captivity.

The Schalit family has been increasingly vocal in criticising the government’s efforts to win their son’s release.

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 TV, Aviva Schalit, Gilad’s mother, was asked if she felt she had been cheated by the government.

“They promised that Gilad would be part of the deal. In the end, Gilad is not part of the deal. Everyone can decide if that’s being cheated or not,” she said.

As part of their petition, the Schalits published a hand-written letter from their son delivered to the family two weeks ago by representatives of former President Jimmy Carter. In the letter, dated June, 2008, Schalit writes that he is suffering from medical and psychological difficulties and calls on the government to meet his captors’ demands.

A deal on a prisoner swap that would see Mr Schalit released in return for hundreds of Palestinians has stalled, mainly because of disagreements over which imprisoned militants Israel would free.

The Popular Resistance Committees, one of the three militant groups that captured Mr Schalit, criticised the family’s court challenge, the truce had improved the chances of freeing the young man.

“The calm is a good factor that might help to get his son out,” said Abu Mujahid, a spokesman for the group. He urged Mr Schalit’s father to “work to make Olmert agree to our demands and complete the swap deal”.

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