The US has proposed deploying international observers at the main cargo crossing between Israel and Gaza to prevent repeated security closures of Gaza's economic lifeline, a Palestinian negotiator said yesterday.
The Palestinians support the idea and Israel is studying it, officials said. US officials in Israel had no immediate comment.
The Karni crossing was closed by Israel for long stretches this year following security alerts and attacks by Palestinian militants. Virtually all of Gaza's imports and exports go through Karni.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the proposal to deploy observers on the Palestinian side of the crossing came from Major General Keith Dayton, the US security coordinator in the West Bank and Gaza.
The plan also calls for training Palestinian security, trade and customs officials and building a new terminal at Karni, Erekat said.
The Israeli daily Haaretz said 90 international observers would be deployed on the Palestinian side of Karni, backed by 30 assistants, and the terminal would be expanded on both sides.
The Dayton plan calls for an investment of some US$19 million to train and equip the Palestinian officials. The aim is to have 400 trucks pass daily, Haaretz said.
Currently, supplies trickling through the crossing don't meet Palestinian needs, Erekat said.
He said the proposal has been approved by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and now awaits Israeli approval.
The proposed agreement came up in a meeting last week between Dayton and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, but Israel was inclined to discuss it only after the release of kidnapped soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit, a senior defense ministry official said on condition of anonymity because he was not part of the meeting.
Shalit was seized by Hamas-allied militants in late June.
Also yesterday, four Palestinians were killed near Gaza City. Palestinian security officials said the four were manning roadblocks in the area when they were hit by an Israeli missile fired from the air.
Meanwhile, the growing chaos and lawlessness in the Gaza Strip has prompted an unusually frank comment by the spokesman of the Hamas government, Ghazi Hamad, who wrote that the Palestinians have bungled the aftermath of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and should stop blaming Israel for all their woes.
In a newspaper article published yesterday, Hamad urged Palestinians to look beyond the conflict with Israel in searching for the causes of internal violence and lawlessness in Gaza.