Gaza Protests Leads to Egypt Opposition Arrests

Egyptian police on Thursday arrested 64 members of the Muslim Brotherhood opposition group for organizing protests against the siege of the Gaza Strip, the Islamic group said.

The arrests were made during dawn raids in the northern city of Alexandria, the Suez Canal town of Ismailya and other governorates in the Nile Delta, the Brotherhood website said.

The arrests were made after the Brotherhood organized "events across the country showing solidarity with the Palestinian people, particularly those facing the deadly siege in Gaza."

The movement won a fifth of seats in the 2005 parliamentary election, which observers said was marred by police intervention and fraud.

Police have arrested dozens of the Islamists this year and also barred some of their leadership from travelling abroad.

Gaza Blockade

Israel said it will allow some humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip on Thursday, easing a month-old closure it imposed on the Hamas-ruled territory after a surge in violence.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak authorized the delivery of 70 truckloads of food and basic supplies into Gaza and an unspecified quantity of fuel for the impoverished territory’s sole power plant, his office said in a statement.

The statement said the decision was taken as a gesture of goodwill ahead of next week’s Eid al-Adha, the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice.

This would be the fourth time that Israel is opening its crossings with Gaza since violence flared on November 4.

The opening of the crossings will be reviewed on a daily basis and will be subject to Palestinian militants halting their rocket fire against southern Israel, said defense ministry spokesman Peter Lerner. 

Libyan Protests

The decision comes as Libya protested in vain yesterday before the U.N. Security Council over Israel’s interception of one of its cargo ships attempting to offload aid in Gaza.

Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi told an emergency council session that Israel was guilty of "piracy in the high seas," and called for "effective action that will ensure compliance of Israel with international humanitarian law and the law of the seas".

His complaints, however, failed to elicit a formal condemnation of Monday’s actions by Israel, which needed unanimous consensus by the council’s 14 members — Libya is one of the 15-strong council’s 10 rotating members.

Israeli warships on Monday prevented a Libyan cargo vessel, the Al-Marwa, from reaching the Gaza Strip with 3,000 tons of humanitarian aid for the impoverished Palestinian territory, which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since June 2007.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gabriela Shalev, said that since Libya does not recognize the state of Israel, the interception was justified on grounds of national security.
Gaza Banks Short on Cash

Bank branches across the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip shut their doors on Thursday, saying they did not have enough bank notes in their vaults to operate normally because of an Israeli-led blockade.

"The bank is closed because of the occupation’s ban on cash entry," signs read at several branches in Gaza City.

It was unclear when Israel would allow cash into the Gaza Strip to replenish currency stocks.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, whose Western-backed government is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, said earlier this week that there was not enough cash in the Gaza Strip to cover salaries for more than 77,000 government workers there.

Fayyad said 250 million Israeli shekels ($63 million) was needed to pay the salaries but that banks in the Gaza Strip had only 47 million shekels ($12 million).

( and agencies)

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