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Israel to 'liberalise' Gaza embargo

Thursday, June 17, 2010 09:56:51 PM, Al Jazeera

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Jerusalem: Israel's security cabinet has agreed to ease the land blockade imposed on Gaza following an international outcry over a deadly raid on an aid flotilla convoy.

An official Israeli statement said on Thursday that "it was agreed to liberalise the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza [and] expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision".

But Hamas, the Palestinian group which controls the territory, rejected the Israeli announcement as "propaganda".

"Our request is that the border should be open completely. This new Israeli system is not acceptable," Ahmed al-Kord from the Hamas-run Gaza government's ministry of social affairs, said.

Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Jerusalem, said the statement made no reference to the naval blockade that Israeli also imposes on Gaza.

"Looking at the statement in its entirety, the international community cannot be pleased with this, as they have been asking for a lifting of the blockade," he said.

Thursday's announcement appeared to indicate that Israel would allow international organisations, such as the UN, to import previously banned building materials, vital to reconstruction after its war on Gaza.

While an exact list of the products that will be allowed into Gaza has not been released, the Ha'aretz newspaper reported the Israeli-approved items could include all food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils and mattresses .

Details matter
"The detail is what matters," Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said in response to the Israeli decision.

The security cabinet, which began its discussions to ease the embargo on Wednesday, noted that "existing security procedures to prevent the inflow of weapons and war material" would continue.

Israel must "make sure that many, many more goods can get in to Gaza to enable people to reconstruct their homes, to build schools, to place infrastructure, and also to enable people to get on with ordinary lives," Ashton said.

The Israeli annoucement did not mention lifting or easing bans on exports from Gaza.

The blockade that Israel imposed in 2007 after Hamas took control of the territory has destroyed Gaza's economy, shuttering hundreds of factories and forcing many of the region's 1.5 million residents to depend on food aid.

'Relieving pressure'
Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas leader, also dismissed the Israeli decision as an attempt to "relieve the pressure" following the attack on the aid flotilla on May 31.

Israel has faced mounting international callsto ease or lift the blockade after its soldiers attacked a Gaza-bound aid ship and killed nine pro-Palestinian activists in international waters.

"We in Hamas reject the Zionist decision, which is an attempt to obscure the international decision to completely lift the siege on the Gaza Strip," Radwan said.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority which rivals Hamas, also called for a complete end to the Gaza blockade.

"The siege is collective punishment and it must be lifted," Saeb Erekat, a spokesperson for the Palestinain Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas, the president, said.

Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent arms smuggling to Hamas.

But the International Committee of the Red Cross has described it as illegal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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