Gaza blockade to witness notable changes, Blair says

Gaza blockade to witness notable changes, Blair says
# 22 June 2010 22:27 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APAÅŸ Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip will soon witness notable changes, Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair said Tuesdayç APA reports quoting Xinhua News Agency.

The Middle East Quartet, represented by the former British prime minister, is exerting intensive efforts to help ease the three-year-old Israeli tight siege, Blair talked to a workshop in Gaza through video-conference link.

Earlier in the day, Blair paid a visit to the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom crossing in southeast Gaza Strip to inspect the flow of cargo into Gaza, according to an Israel Radio report.

Blair said the new changes include expanding the list of the permitted goods into Gaza, adding the Quartet, consisting of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, are trying to persuade Israel to lift the ban on construction materials.

Last week, Israel announced it will allow all civilian products to enter Gaza. However, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the goods that can be used for dual purposes, such as cement, are restricted to the hands of international aid organizations.

Israel’s new policies came under growing international criticism on its way of dealing with Gaza, whose rulers Israel wants to isolate. However, many experts say the sanctions have taken toll only on the civilians.

Israel said it bans the cement and other construction materials because the Hamas, who ruled Gaza and swore to destroy the Jewish state, could use them to build bunkers and tunnels.

An Israeli raid on a Turkish-led flotilla bound for Gaza on May 31, killing nine pro-Palestinian activists, sparked a worldwide outcry against the Gaza blockade.

Blair said effective and satisfying solutions should be worked out for the lift of the blockade, citing that to release Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Gaza militants four years ago, and to end inter-Palestinian division between Hamas and Fatah, may help.

The Palestinians said the Israeli steps to let in more goods will not resolve the crisis, since factory workers are lack of raw materials to start producing.

For the first time in three years, Israel began to ship stationery, toys, mattresses, kitchen tools and all kinds of food into Gaza to ease mounting international criticism.

Previously, only humanitarian goods, certain kinds of foods and medicine and reduced amounts of fuel were allowed into the isolated enclave, home to 1.5 million people.

Raed Fatouh, a Palestinian liaison official, said Israel has increased the number of allowed goods to 350 but did not increase the number of trucks used to carry them.

He said Israel promised to allow more products in the future, including cars parts, cosmetics and farming and fishing tools.