Israel ease curbs on `civilian` goods into Gaza

Israel`s cabinet gave its approval to ease the three-year land blockade of the Gaza Strip to allow all "civilian" goods into the enclave.

Jerusalem: Israel`s cabinet Sunday gave
its approval to ease the three-year land blockade of the Gaza
Strip to allow all "civilian" goods into the enclave in a bid
to quell mounting international criticism following a bloody
sea raid on an aid flotilla bound for the Hamas-run territory.

The cabinet, however, did not remove the naval
blockade of the coastal territory despite being under intense
pressure following a deadly Israeli navy raid on aid flotilla
on May 31 trying to break the siege.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu updated Quartet`s
envoy in the region, Tony Blair, with the new blockade policy,
and the two are expected to release a joint statement later
today detailing the steps to ease the land blockade of the
Gaza Strip.

The government had approved `liberalising" the
blockade last week but the details are said to have been
worked out only today. The revised list of things that can
enter Gaza are likely to be announced later in the evening.

Israel`s cabinet expanded its list of approved
products that can enter the coastal territory to include all
food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils, mattresses and

A top official was quoted as saying in the media that
the government was committed to allow the flow of "civilian
goods" to the population in the Strip.

"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," the government said last week.

The decision, however, does not loosen Israel`s tight
grip on the sea route with naval blockade in place since 2006.

Israel is wary that an unrestricted import of cement
could lead to Islamist group Hamas seizing the material and
using it to rebuild military infrastructure.

The key announcement came ahead of a planned July 6
meeting in Washington between Netanyahu and US President
Barack Obama, who has called the humanitarian situation in
Gaza "unsustainable."

Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip
since 2007 after vanquishing forces loyal to the Palestinian
Authority (PA), has demaned the complete lifting of
restrictions over entry of humans and goods. It describe the
latest Israli move move as "media propaganda".

The new Israeli policy comes as an internal probe by
the navy concluded that the bloody raid by Israel`s naval
commandos on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla last month suffered
from "serious defects".

The internal Israel Navy probe found that the commando
unit was inadequately prepared, lacked sufficient
intelligence, and was ill-used in its approach to the
Turkish-flagged ship Mavi Marmara, Israel Radio reported

However, it also concluded that the reaction of the
soldiers was appropriate as they did not expect a mass
offensive. It said due to the fact that a mass offensive
against Israel`s commandos was not taken into account, the
officers acted accordingly under the circumstances.

Nine pro-Palestinian activists onboard the
Turkish-flagged ship were killed in clashes with the commandos
and dozens others wounded, including soldiers who were
allegedly attacked with knives and clubs on May 31.

The violence not only sparked international
condemnation of the operation, but led to demands for an
independent international inquiry.

Israel has separately formed an internal panel with
two foreign observers to look into the incident.


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