Israel to boost Gaza aid but won't end blockade

JERUSALEM Sun Jan 18, 2009 12:02am GMT

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel said on Sunday it will be prepared to sharply increase the flow of food and medicine to Gaza if a unilateral cease-fire holds, but it ruled out fully lifting a blockade until a captured Israeli soldier is freed.

Lifting the blockade was one of Hamas's chief demands for entering into a cease-fire.

"If the quiet holds, there will not be any problem dramatically increasing aid like food and medicine. If this quiet holds, we will work with the international community for reconstruction," said Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"But you can't have anything close to full normalisation of the crossings as long as Gilad Shalit remains a hostage," Regev added. Shalit was captured in a cross-border raid in 2006.

(Reporting by Adam Entous)

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