Israel allows some Gaza exports, Hamas demands more amid fragile truce

·2-min read

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Rami Ayyub

GAZA/TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Israel allowed a limited resumption of commercial exports from the Gaza Strip on Monday in what it called a "conditional" measure, one month after a truce halted 11 days of fighting with the Palestinian enclave's Hamas rulers.

But following a meeting with U.N. mediators, Hamas leader Yehya Al-Sinwar said the easing of Israeli restrictions was not enough. He held out the possibility of resuming hostilities.

Israel keeps tight controls on Gaza crossings, with support from neighbouring Egypt, citing threats from Hamas. The Israeli restrictions were intensified during the May fighting, effectively halting all exports.

With the Egyptian-mediated ceasefire largely holding, Israel said some exports were allowed out through its territory as of Monday morning.

"Following a security evaluation, a decision has been made for the first time since the end of (the fighting) to enable ... (the) limited export of agricultural produce from the Gaza Strip," COGAT, a branch of Israel's Defence Ministry, said.

COGAT said the measure was approved by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government and was "conditional upon the preservation of security stability".

Gaza border officials said the easing of Israeli restrictions would last two to three days and would apply to agricultural goods and some textiles.

Egypt and the United Nations stepped up mediation last week after incendiary balloons launched from Gaza drew retaliatory Israeli air strikes on Hamas sites, challenging the fragile ceasefire.

Sinwar, after meeting in Gaza with U.N. Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland, accused Israel of keeping out aid from Qatar, which in recent years has bankrolled Gaza reconstruction projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

"It seems the occupation (Israel) didn't understand our message, and that we maybe need to carry out popular resistance to put pressure on the occupation," Sinwar said.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's office did not provide comment on Sinwar's remarks.

At a memorial service on Sunday for Israeli soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war, Bennett, who was sworn in last week and replaced longtime premier Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel would not tolerate any resumption of hostilities.

"(We) will not tolerate even a few rockets. We will not show forbearance nor exercise containment toward splinter factions," he said, alluding to past attacks by militants other than Hamas.

"Our patience has run out."

(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by William Maclean and Peter Graff)

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