An Egyptian crackdown on smuggling tunnels along Gaza's southern border has made things even tougher by robbing Hamas of its key economic pipeline and weapons conduit. Gaza's unemployment rate surpasses 50 percent, and Hamas is unable to pay the salaries of tens of thousands of workers.
An easing of the blockade would mean an increased role for Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose forces were ousted by Hamas seven years ago. Officials said the rival Palestinian factions were already exploring options that would give Abbas, who now governs in the West Bank, a foothold in Gaza, including the likely control of its border crossing with Egypt.
At a minimum, Israel will want guarantees that the rocket fire will stop. A 2012 cease-fire promised an easing of the blockade but was never implemented — in part because of sporadic rocket attacks by various armed factions in Gaza.
Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Hamas could get the blockade lifted by accepting longstanding international demands to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist.
"They want to get legitimacy as a terrorist organization without accepting the requirements of the international community," she told a news conference.
In the West Bank, Palestinian health officials said an 11-year-old boy was shot and killed Sunday by Israeli forces in a refugee camp near the city of Hebron.
Witnesses and relatives of the boy said Israeli security forces opened fire at Palestinian stone-throwers. They said the boy was standing on the road in front of his home at the time.
The military said its forces encountered a "violent riot" and opened fire. It acknowledged that the boy was killed in the violence and said it was investigating.
The current Gaza war escalated from the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds of its members in the West Bank. Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from Gaza.
Associated Press writers Josef Federman in Jerusalem, Sarah El Deeb in Cairo, Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, and Daniel Estrin and Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
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