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Israel PM says in talks to enable Gaza aid

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today he was engaged in discussions on ways to meet Gaza's humanitarian needs while preventing the entry of arms into the Hamas-run coastal strip.

world Updated: Jun 13, 2010 19:00 IST

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he was engaged in discussions on ways to meet Gaza's humanitarian needs while preventing the entry of arms into the Hamas-run coastal strip.

Netanyahu told reporters at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting that talks on the issue began even before Israeli commandos stormed the lead ship of a convoy seeking to break its naval blockade, killing nine Turkish activists.

"Before the flotilla set sail for Gaza, we discussed, in various forums, the continuation of our policy toward the Gaza Strip," Netanyahu said.

"These discussions continued last week, inter alia, in the meetings I held on the subject with Quartet envoy Tony Blair."

Netanyahu said discussions would continue during the coming week but did not elaborate. An aide later told AFP the talks would take place both within the Israeli government and with members of the international community.

Local media have said that Israel, in consultation with the United States, is weighing the possibility of allowing maritime shipments of supplies to Gaza with a third party inspecting vessels at sea to ensure they are not carrying arms or other contraband.

Israel and Egypt cut off most access to the strip when Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured by Hamas and other militants during a cross-border raid in June 2006.

The closure was tightened further the following year when the Islamist group, which has fired thousands of rockets and mortar shells into Israel, seized power in Gaza.

"The principle guiding our policy is clear," Netanyahu said on Sunday. "To prevent the entry of war material from entering Gaza and to allow the entry of humanitarian aid."

Netanyahu met Blair, the Middle East envoy for the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia, in Jerusalem on Friday in a bid to enlist international support for Israel's position.

The former British premier has called the Gaza blockade "counterproductive."