Israel lifts ban on shoes, clothes for Gaza, official

21:59, March 29, 2010      

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A Palestinian official said on Monday Israel has lifted a ban on shoes and clothes to the Hamas- ruled Gaza Strip.

Adding more items to the products allowed into Gaza was apparently a result of U.S. pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, local analysts said.

Currently, crossing points between Gaza and Israel are closed until the end of this week due to the week-long Jewish Passover holidays. When they reopen, Gaza merchants can import clothes and shoes, said Ra'd Fatouh, an official with the ministry of economy.

He told Xinhua that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and international relief organizations demanded Israel relax its sanctions that have been imposed on Gaza for nearly three years.

Generally, Israel lets little more than basic food and medical supplies into Gaza since Islamic Hamas movement seized control of the coastal enclave in June 2007.

Fatouh said the Palestinians have sent a list of 33 items of products to Israel for exclusion from sanctions, "but the Israeli side is studying and estimating every item very slowly before accepting it." These items mainly include construction materials and household items.

Before the blockade took effect, an average of 400 truckloads of supplies used to get into Gaza on a daily basis. Now, it rarely exceeds 80 trucks irregularly, according to the Palestinians.

The shoes and clothes will enter Gaza in six to 10 trucks everyday through Kerem Shalom crossing, one of the three commercial terminals between Gaza and Israel, Fatouh said.

Recently, a discord emerged between Israel and the United States over plans to expand Jewish settlements in disputed East Jerusalem.

Israeli prime minister Netanyahu, who was in Washington last week, reportedly pledged to make confidence-building measures with the Palestinians, including releasing prisoners and relaxing the closure on Gaza.

Meanwhile, Israeli army penetrated for a few hundreds of meters in southeast Gaza Strip and levelled fields to the east of Khan Younis town, witnesses said.

The Israeli force, made up of tanks and bulldozers, withdrew before noon, according to the witnesses.

The area had witnesses fierce fighting on Friday when Palestinian militants killed two Israeli soldiers in the worst clashes for Israel since the end of Gaza war in early 2009.

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