Gaza blockade eased but Hamas demand full lift

By Jessica Elgot, June 18, 2010
Gaza: new items of food and some building materials will now be allowed in.

Gaza: new items of food and some building materials will now be allowed in.

Israel’s announcement that it will ease the blockade of Gaza has been welcomed internationally but dismissed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Israel has already announced that some construction material, like cement and steel, supervised by international groups, will now be allowed through the blockade.

A full list of the newly approved items has not been released but Israeli media has widely speculated that all food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils and mattresses will be allowed in to the Strip.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he hoped in return that the international community would push for the release of Gilad Shalit.

But the move was derided by Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, who said: “Some of these goods are trivial and secondary.” He called for the blockade to be lifted entirely.

The Palestinian Authority also rejected anything less than the free passage of goods and people into Gaza. Its spokesman said: "Goods and people must be free to enter and leave. Gaza especially needs construction material, which must be allowed to come in without restrictions."

The former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now the Middle East envoy for the Quartet, is understood to have brokered the deal on easing the restrictions with Mr Netanyahu.

He welcomed the easing of the passage to Gaza, and said: “We need to make sure that people's lives in Gaza do improve. That's the purpose of the change of policy that people like myself have argued for the past two years. The release of Sergeant Shalit would allow us to make even further progress.

"But I am absolutely determined to secure significant change over this coming period so that people in Gaza, ordinary people in Gaza, many of whom do not support Hamas, many of whom are young children, get the access to the basic necessities of life that they require and daily life and can start to return to normal."

Last updated: 11:05am, June 18 2010