Gaza blockade to be eased quickly

Tony Blair said the plans would improve the lives of people in Gaza

Tony Blair said the plans would improve the lives of people in Gaza

Israel has set out details of how the Gaza blockade will be eased to allow in increased building equipment and food.

Under the new plan, which Israel has said will be implemented “as quickly as possible” it is expected that all civilian goods will be permitted to go into the area unless they are specifically banned.

Food, domestic supplies and building materials for Palestinian Authority and United Nations approved construction will be allowed in, with only "problematic dual-use" that could be used as weapons or in manufacturing arms prohibited.

Israel has also agreed to increase access at crossing points to allow easier access into Gaza, and to streamline passage of people travelling in and out of Gaza for medical reasons.

Tony Blair, the Middle East Envoy, who has been at the forefront of discussions on the restrictions, said: "It will improve the lives of people in Gaza."

He told Channel 4 News that he hoped the decision would “very quickly” make a difference.

“I expect within the next couple of weeks we should virtually double the amount of material going into Gaza."

The plans to ease the three year old restrictions, brought in when Hamas won power in the Gaza Strip in 2007, have also been welcomed by members of the international community.

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said: “We believe these arrangements should significantly improve conditions for Palestinians in Gaza, while preventing the entry of weapons.”

The EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called the decision was "a significant improvement".

The naval blockade will remain in place, with supplies diverted through the port city of Ashdod, near Gaza.

The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said the plans to alleviate the land blockade did not go far enough.

Last updated: 11:30am, June 21 2010