Israel will not turn off the water supply to Gaza even if Hamas takes complete control of the Gaza Strip, a senior government official said Wednesday night. The question of whether to continue supplying the area with electricity would have to be evaluated, the official added. "We are not going to turn off the water for 1.8 million people," the official said. "They are not going to be punished for what is going on there." The question of electricity, however, will be evaluated along with numerous other options Israel is looking at regarding both the current fighting and how to deal with the eventuality that Hamas will completely take over the area.
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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to hold a number of high-level security meetings on the matter Thursday. Sources in the Prime Minster's Office said he was updated on the Gaza violence throughout the day, and that the consensus opinion was that as bad as things might get in Gaza, Israel would not go back inside to try and impose order.
"This would only complicate the problems," the official said.
Another humanitarian issue that Israel will likely have to grapple with over the next few days, if the fighting intensifies, is whether to allow Palestinians fleeing the violence into Israel through the border crossings. The Rafah crossing from Gaza to Egypt has been closed since Saturday.
Marc Otte, the EU's special Middle East envoy, told The Jerusalem Post that the EU was not asking Israel at this time to do anything specific regarding the fighting. He said that it would obviously "not be productive" for Israel to take sides in this conflict.
Otte said the Egyptians, who have representatives inside Gaza, are continuing to try and bring about a cease-fire, "but the question is what comes after the cease-fire." Pointing out that there had been a number of cease-fires reached and breached over the last few months, Otte said that the Palestinians "need to decide that enough is enough and turn their energies elsewhere." But, he added, this presently was "not the mood."
Referring to an idea Olmert floated Wednesday of an international force on the Philadelphi Corridor between Egypt and Gaza to prevent arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip, Otte said that this idea was only in very preliminary stages of discussion.
"My understanding is that this issue is being discussed," Otte said, but that there was "not a plan being rolled out at the moment."
A senior Israeli official said that the idea, first broached some three weeks ago by the Foreign Ministry, would be discussed by Olmert when he goes to Washington next week. Olmert is scheduled to meet US President George W. Bush on Tuesday, and is also expected to meet separately with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. This is the type of issue that would generally come up in a meeting with Rice.
Meanwhile, Democratic Senatorial Candidate Hillary Clinton told the Post Wednesday that when it came to the means of strengthening Fatah in its struggle with Hamas, she was "going to leave those decisions to the Israeli government." She was speaking after making remarks at an Orthodox Union luncheon in Washington warning of the danger a Hamas victory would pose for Israel and the region.
"We've got a situation here where it's almost ironic that people are rooting for Fatah. This is something that I don't think any of us ever would have foreseen," Clinton told the OU audience.
"The civil war in Gaza, which has the potential of spreading to the West Bank, has the potential of bringing Hamas to power with a much stronger position than it currently has. I think that is deeply disturbing."
She continued, "If Hamas emerges victorious in this civil war, we'll have a whole new set of issues that we'll have to figure out how to deal with. That is not good, obviously, for Israel, but it's also not good for Egypt. It's not good for Jordan." Clinton did not outline any specific action plan, other than ruling out any contacts with Hamas.
"There should not be any effort to, certainly recognize, or even deal with Hamas until it renounces violence and recognizes Israel's right to exist," the New York senator said.
EU Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana said in Brussels Wednesday that the European Union would consider participating in an international force if asked by the major players in the region.
"If we are asked, of course, we will consider the possibility," Solana told reporters.
"We are far from a decision," he said. "We'll see how things go, and what is the decision to be taken by the important players, that have to take a decision, which are... the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Egyptians."
The idea of the international force is expected to be one of the topics of discussion when Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni goes to Portugal on Thursday for talks with Portugal's leaders. Portugal will replace Germany as the rotating presidency of the EU on July 1.
From Portugal, Livni will travel to Luxembourg for a meeting of the EU's foreign ministers on Monday. Though her appearance there was originally supposed to deal with the Arab Peace Initiative, it is likely that now the main focus of the discussion will be on the situation in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority.
AP contributed to this report.