Home > Gaza, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey > Israel relaxes import restrictions for Gaza

Israel relaxes import restrictions for Gaza

(WJC)–The Israeli Security Cabinet has decided to relax import rules for humanitarian goods and to ease much of its land blockade on the Gaza Strip. A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it had been “agreed to liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza [and] expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision. A list of prohibited goods not allowed into Gaza is to replace the current system of a list of approved goods. Moreover, construction materials for UN-sponsored projects will be allowed into the Hamas-controlled territory, and Israel will consider allowing EU monitors to be stationed at crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

A press release by Netanyahu’s office added that Israel “expects the international community to work toward the immediate release of Gilad Shalit,” the IDF soldier abducted by Hamas in June 2006 and held hostage in Gaza.

Middle East envoy Tony Blair described the Israeli decision as a “very important step” which “will allow us to keep weapons and weapon materials out of Gaza, but on the other hand to help the Palestinian population there.” The former British prime minister told the Israeli newspaper ‘Haaretz’: “The policy in Gaza should be to isolate the extremists but to help the people.” Israeli minister Isaac Herzog told ‘Army Radio’: “We must understand that the blockade implemented until this time is outdated and no longer applicable in the current international and diplomatic climate.”

Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the United Nations, said the blockade should be lifted entirely. “We need to judge the Israeli authorities by deeds not words because there have been many words in the past,” he was quoted by the newspaper ‘The Guardian’ as saying.

Meanwhile, the controversial Turkish foundation IHH announced at a press conference held at the European Parliament in Strasbourg that it is planning to send another flotilla of ships to break the Gaza sea blockade in late July.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview that Israel’s attack on the Gaza Flotilla on 31 May had increased the chances of a new war in the Middle East. In a BBC interview Assad said that Syria was working to prevent a regional war but he added that there was no chance of a peace deal with the current Israeli administration, which he called a “pyromaniac government”. The raid had “destroyed any chance for peace in the near future,” Assad said, adding: “You cannot achieve peace with such [a] government.” The Syrian leader denied that he was sending weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon, but insisted that Iran would remain an ally of Syria.


Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

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