Israel ease curbs on 'civilian' goods into Gaza | world | Hindustan Times
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Israel ease curbs on 'civilian' goods into Gaza

world Updated: Jun 21, 2010 00:42 IST

Israel's cabinet today 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 towels.

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".