oPt: Israel keeps blockade imposed on Gaza, militants fire more rockets

GAZA, Nov 21, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) -- Israel has kept on Friday a strict blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip for 17 consecutive days, while Gaza militants continued launching homemade rockets at southern Israeli towns and communities.

Palestinian officials warned that the ongoing strict siege imposed on 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip for more than two weeks "would cause a severe humanitarian crisis due to the shortage of basic needs of food and fuel."

Hatem Eweida, an official in the Hamas-ruled ministry of economics, said in a statement sent to reporters that the ongoing blockade imposed on Gaza "would mount the population's suffering."

"Due to the ongoing siege, we have severe shortage of basic food products in addition to the shortage of medicines, fuels, cooking gas and the industrial diesel used for operating Gaza main power station," said Eweida.

Outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has decided on Friday to keep the blockade imposed on the enclave after Gaza militants fired several rockets from Gaza at Israel, the Arabic service of Israeli Radio reported.

Several Palestinian armed groups claimed responsibility on Friday for launching more homemade rockets from Gaza at southern Israel, saying the rockets' attacks "are a response to the daily Israeli offensives against the people."

The armed wing of the Popular Front to Liberate Palestine (PFLP) and the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) claimed responsibility in separate pamphlets for launching two rockets each at southern Israel.

A fragile six-month truce, mediate by Egypt between Gaza militant groups and Israel, which came into effect in June 19, is threatened to collapse following more than two weeks on a mounting violence between the two sides.