Home > Israel, Palestinian Authority > European Union and Red Cross press Israel to ease Gaza blockade

European Union and Red Cross press Israel to ease Gaza blockade

(WJC)–European Union officials said on Monday that Israel will likely agree to relax its blockade of the Gaza Strip by opening at least one border crossing to large-scale commercial traffic. Diplomats in Brussels were quoted by AP as saying that Israel would likely drop its restrictive list of goods that are permitted into the region. Instead, there would be a short, agreed list of items banned because of Israeli security concerns, the diplomats said on the condition that they not be named.

A diplomat said that Israel might be willing to open either the Karni or the Kerem Shalom border crossings for large-scale imports into Gaza. Israel rejected a proposal for cargo to be delivered by ships checked in a third location such as Cyprus, he added. The Karni and Kerem Shalom crossings have been open for humanitarian goods for the past few years. Israeli security officials have said talks are now under way to replace the Israeli supervision with an international presence, with the involvement of the Palestinians and the Egyptians.

EU foreign ministers are planning to call the Israeli blockade as “unacceptable and counterproductive”, according to a draft statement released on Monday. After meeting with Palestinian President Abbas in Madrid, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose government currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, called for a “strong, joint EU position toward what happened in Gaza and the humanitarian situation in that area.”

Meanwhile, Tony Blair, the former British prime minister and now Middle East envoy of the International Quartet, said he was hopeful of a “significant” easing of Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Blair said he saw no real prospect of Israel lifting the naval blockade of the territory but added it was possible the list of items permitted to be brought into Gaza by land could be redrafted to allow more necessities of ordinary life to enter the coastal enclave. “I think it is possible to get a role back for the EU and the Palestinian Authority in the way that these crossings, or some of them, are monitored. The idea would be to make a significant change where the blockade would remain in respect of those items that are a security risk for Israel, but items for daily life will be able to come in,” Blair said on a BBC radio program.

In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called for the blockade to be lifted, saying it violated the Geneva Conventions. The ICRC also called on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier abducted in a cross-border raid nearly four years ago. “The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility,” the ICRC said. “The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.”

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

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