Israel Eases Gaza Blockade, Will Allow In All Goods Except For Weapons

Huffington Post

JERUSALEM — Israel’s government decided Sunday to draw up a list of items banned from Gaza limited to weapons and materials deemed to have military uses and said the easing of the three-year-old blockade of the Palestinian territory would be implemented immediately.

The list of banned goods replaces an old list of allowed items that permitted only basic humanitarian supplies for the 1.5 million Gazans. Under the new system, the government said practically all non-military items can enter Gaza freely.

“From now on, there is a green light of approval for all goods to enter Gaza except for military items and materials that can strengthen Hamas’ military machine,” Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said.

Israel decided on Thursday to ease the blockade under intense international pressure after its raid on a blockade-busting international flotilla bound for Gaza killed nine pro-Palestinian activists.

In a critical shift, Israel said it would allow construction materials into Gaza for projects approved by the Palestinian Authority, such as housing and schools, as long as the projects are under international supervision. Up to now, Israel has banned most construction materials, including cement.

Construction materials are a critical need in Gaza. Thousands of buildings were destroyed or damaged in Israel’s military operation in Gaza a year and a half ago, aimed at stopping years of daily rocket attacks by Gaza militants. Because of the blockade, little repair or rebuilding has been done since the war ended.

The list of banned items was not released Sunday, but the government said it will be published.    Continue reading…

Netanyahu: No ships to reach Gaza

Decisive message:

Israel will not allow any ships to reach the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday, during a special session held by the forum of top seven government ministers.

 The meeting was called in the wake of the deadly raid on a Gaza-bound vessel earlier in the week and the expected arrival of another ship, the Rachel Corrie, in the coming days.

 However, the prime minister is still reportedly willing to show flexibility on Israel’s blockade policy.

 During Thursday’s session, Netanyahu said: “We shall not allow the ships to reach Gaza. Not now and not later on. We intend to direct the Rachel Corrie ship to the Ashdod Port and transfer its civilian goods to Gaza following a security check.”

 Officials expect no confrontation

Earlier, security officials estimated that activists aboard the Rachel Corrie will prefer to dock in Ashdod rather than to go on to Gaza. Officials believe the activists will seek to transfer their goods via land, while collaborating with Israel.

 “If this is not the case, we will do everything to stop them without casualties,” a security official said. “We are engaging in negotiations with whoever is out there.”

 Earlier Thursday, PM Netanyahu met with Quarter Envoy Tony Blair and told him he’s willing to examine “creative ways” to bring aid into Gaza, after the goods are examined.

Blair told the PM he noticed that in the latter’s speech Wednesday he made a distinction between Israel’s legitimate right to prevent arms smuggling and the transfer of civilian goods, which should be allowed to come in.

The prime minister confirmed, stressing that every ship that may be smuggling missiles and rockets must be inspected.