Israel eases Gaza blockade


Jerusalem: The Israeli government has adopted measures to ease its blockade of the Gaza Strip and extend the list of products allowed in, the prime minister’s office said in a statement Sunday.

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After a meeting with his security cabinet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel was ready to open its border with Gaza to all products not included on a new list of forbidden items.

The list would be limited to weapons, materials that could have military use as well as “problematic dual-use items”, the statement said. All other goods would be allowed in.

The maritime blockade was to remain in force and ships would not be allowed to enter the strip.

Construction materials, which have not been allowed through Israeli crossings for the past three years, are to be approved only for projects authorised by the Palestinian Authority and under international supervision.

The reconstruction of schools, health, water and sanitation facilities, and the implementation of UN housing projects would be accelerated, the Israeli government said.

Additional ways to facilitate the movement of people to and from Gaza were also to be considered.

Despite the lifting of some restrictions, the Israeli government made clear that the current security regime for Gaza would be maintained and that Hamas would continue to be classed as a “terrorist organisation.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu updated Middle East Quartet Representative Tony Blair of the new blockade policy in a meeting late Sunday.

Israel had imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip after militants kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid led by Hamas in 2006.

The Israeli blockade was tightened again after the Islamic movement seized control of the enclave by force in June 2007, and routed secular President Mahmoud Abbas’ security forces.