Israel was forced to shut down one of the main goods crossings into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip today when Israeli demonstrators gathered there to call for the release of a captured soldier. "The crossing was supposed to be open today and approximately 80 lorries were supposed to pass, carrying food and medical supplies," a military spokesman said. "Because of the demonstration, it is closed right now."
He added that police had arrived on the scene and the army hoped to reopen the Kerem Shalom crossing later in the day. Local media reported dozens of protesters had gathered in the early hours to protest the stalling of indirect talks between Israel and Hamas over the release of Israeli reservist Corporal Gilad Shalit. Israel's defence minister Ehud Barak told army radio every effort was being made to bring Shalit home but warned that such demonstrations could "raise the price of his release" by encouraging Hamas to increase its demands.
Hamas has demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit, who was seized by Gaza militants in a deadly cross-border raid in June 2006. Israel has sealed Gaza off to all but limited humanitarian aid since June 2007 when Hamas seized power in the impoverished territory. The blockade has remained in place despite a four-month truce that has virtually halted the near-daily rocket attacks Palestinian militants used to launch on Israeli communities near the Gaza border.