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Blockade can't divide some Israeli, Palestinian friends

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Egyptian police moved Thursday to control the tens of thousands of Palestinians who streamed into the border town of Rafah a day earlier after militants blew up a border fence.

Meanwhile, Israel's Deputy Defense Minister said that with the Gaza-Egypt border breached, supplies of water, electricity, and food should come from Cairo.

"We need to understand that when Gaza is open to the other side, we lose responsibility for it," said Defense Minister Matan Vilnai.

For years before the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, Israel and the Gaza Strip were joined at the hip. Hundreds of thousands of Gazans worked inside Israel by day and brought home salaries that were the mainstay of the coastal strip's economy. Kibbutz Kfar Azza – whose name is Hebrew for Gaza Village – used to employ more than a dozen Palestinians from Gaza.

But gradually, the economic links have been reduced. After Israel dismantled settlements and army bases in Gaza, it stopped giving entry permits, save for Gazans in need of medical treatment. When Hamas took control of Gaza, Israel reduced the operations of commercial crossings, allowing in only humanitarian aid.

"Now they're living off of flour and olives," says Dudi Doron, a Kfar Azza resident who keeps in regular contact with Mohammed, a laborer from the Gaza city of Khan Younis who worked on the kibbutz for 20 years but now is unemployed.

Though Mohammed calls from an Israeli cellphone given to him by Mr. Doron, the Khan Younis resident is hard to reach because of patchy networks.

About three months ago, Doron wired 4,000 shekels ($1,080) to a Gaza bank to help Mohammed's family make ends meet. But Doron still supports Israel's policy of stopping fuel supplies.

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