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Israel to loosen Gaza blockade

Israel on Wednesday weighed a possible loosening of its blockade of the Gaza Strip, with top security officials debating plans intended to answer international criticism without easing the pressure on the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

world Updated: Jun 18, 2010 00:00 IST

Israel on Wednesday weighed a possible loosening of its blockade of the Gaza Strip, with top security officials debating plans intended to answer international criticism without easing the pressure on the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

The security cabinet — made up of seven of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s closest advisers — had met on Wednesday. The possible changes come in response to international pressure to end the siege of the territory following an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid ship last month that left nine activists dead.

There is no sign that Israel is planning to lift the blockade.

The goals, according to Israeli officials and media reports, are to allow more goods into Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, and to put in place new mechanisms for monitoring importation, perhaps by outside parties, as part of an effort to avoid further clashes with aid flotillas.

That Netanyahu appears willing to modify the blockade at all is a shift for the Israeli leader, who in the immediate aftermath of the May 31 raid was defiant toward international criticism, insisting that the siege was necessary for Israel’s security.

In the three years since Hamas has been in sole control of the strip, however, Israel has sought to cripple not only the movement's military capabilities but also the Gazan economy in general.

The idea appeared to be to put enough pressure on the population to trigger an uprising against Hamas, which the US and Israel consider a terrorist organisation.

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