Thursday, June 17, 2010

Israel will now allow construction materials into Gaza

Israel as allowed for a partial lifting of the Gaza blockade. Construction materials will now be allowed to be shipped into Gaza. Shipping concrete and steel into Gaza was blocked because Israel feared those materials would be used instead for weapons.

Israel has been under pressure to make changes to the blockade since the May 31st skirmish that left 9 people dead aboard a ship carrying aid items.

From NPR, this Associated Press story gives us more details on the changes to the blockade.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office released few details about the changes in its three-year-old blockade, and it was not clear whether any firm decisions had been made.

The only item singled out in its statement was a plan to allow in desperately needed construction materials for civilian projects, but only under international supervision.

Israel has barely allowed in materials like cement and steel, arguing that Hamas militants could use them to build weapons and fortifications. That policy has prevented Gaza from rebuilding after Israel's fierce war in the territory last year.

There was no mention in the statement of any change in other damaging aspects of the blockade, like bans on exports or allowing in raw materials used in industrial production.

But the blockade failed to achieve its aims of stanching the flow of weapons to Gaza or weakening Hamas. A network of smuggling tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border became a conduit for both weapons and commercial goods sold at black market prices. Gazans sank deeper into poverty, turning their anger against Israel and not their Hamas rulers.

Amid the heavy international criticism that followed the Israeli naval raid, Egypt opened its land border crossing with Gaza - the main gateway for some residents to enter and exit the crowded territory.

But most Gazans remained confined to the territory because Egyptian officials say they have let in only about 10,000 people with special travel permits, such as students and people with foreign passports.

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