Israel weighing blockade changes 15Jun10 June 17, 2010

Palestine Note -  15 June 2010

New York – In an apparent nod to international pressure, Israel is expected to approve on Wednesday a set of changes to its policy of blockade toward the Gaza Strip, according to news reports.

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the changes will include the consolidation of a single list goods that are banned from Gaza, which will mean that all other goods will be allowed in.

Israeli officials have never definitively established which goods are on the banned list and which are not. The UN and humanitarian organizations have pieced together an approximate list of banned items.

The changes are reportedly the result of an agreement negotiated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Quartet envoy Tony Blair.

In addition, the report states, Israel will allow construction materials into Gaza. Building materials have been banned since Israel’s three-week attack on Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009, which left 1,400 Palestinians dead and thousands of buildings destroyed.

Under the proposed changes, only the UN will be allowed to handle the building materials, which Israel alleges could be used by Hamas to build bunkers.

It is unclear if the changes will increase the total amount of goods entering Gaza, or if export restrictions will be eased. It is also unclear if Gaza’s 1.5 million residents will be permitted to travel.

The changes are the apparent result of a tidal wave of international criticism in the wake of Israel’s deadly assault on a convoy of ships carrying aid to Gaza May 31.

As Haaretz columnist Yoel Marcus wrote in Wednesday’s newspaper, “The flotilla raid won us the battle but lost us the war – the blockade on Gaza is now finished.”

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