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Israel considers easing Gaza blockade

world Updated: Jun 08, 2009 15:49 IST
AFP
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering easing a stifling blockade imposed on Hamas-ruled Gaza for nearly two years, officials said on Monday in the face of growing US pressure.

The hawkish premier will convene his security cabinet in the next few weeks to decide whether to change current policy, a government official said.

Israel slapped the punishing siege on the Gaza Strip, allowing in only essential humanitarian aid, after the Islamist Hamas movement violently seized power in the coastal enclave in June 2007.

"The prime minister wants to hear different ideas. There is no change in the strategic goal which remains to weaken the Hamas regime," the official said. "All the relevant government bodies will be at the table."

The Jewish state has come under massive international pressure to ease the blockade, including from its main ally the United States, whose President Barack Obama said in a keynote speech in Cairo last week that "the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security."

Israel launched a massive three-week war on Gaza at the turn of the year that left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead and large swathes of the territory in ruins.

A defence official said that Israeli security bodies have held a number of meetings in recent weeks to re-examine the policy, but that ultimately any change will depend on calm remaining along the Gaza border.
"We understand the American pressure and we, too, wish to make life easier on the Palestinian population... but it depends on the quiet in the south," he said.

At least four Palestinian militants were killed on Monday in a gunbattle with Israeli soldiers along the border of the territory in the deadliest such incident in months.

Israel has in the past also linked any easing of the blockade with the release of a soldier held in Gaza for almost three years after he was seized by militants in a deadly cross-border raid.

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