Israel to consider methods to ease Gaza blockade: experts

08:51, June 07, 2010      

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Following the unprecedented international criticism of last week's Israeli attack on the Gaza- bound Freedom Flotilla which was carrying aid to the impoverished Gaza Strip, observers expect that Israel would consider other methods to ease the blockade on the enclave to reduce international pressure.

Palestinian observers expect that the increasing international pressure on the Jewish state "would modify the Israeli blockade, and many different kinds of products would be allowed into the enclave, which has been under the Israeli blockade since Hamas seized control of it in June 2007.

Ahmad Abu al-Sa'eed, a political scientist at the Gaza-based al- Aqsa University told Xinhua that following the Israeli attack on the flotilla, lifting the Israeli blockade "is not only a Palestinian pursuit any more, but also an international demand."

"I believe the Israeli government would think of alternatives to ease the siege on the Gaza Strip to reduce the increasing international pressure," said Abu al-Sa'eed.


After the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla, during which at least nine were killed and dozens wounded, Israel founded itself obliged to ease the blockade or at least find another method to meet its security concerns.

Many countries diplomatically criticized the Israeli action. Israeli officials revealed that the Jewish state is studying an international proposal to ease the blockade while preventing weapons being sent to Hamas in Gaza.

Israel on Sunday reopened commercial crossing points with Gaza after brief closure in the weekend, allowing construction materials into Gaza for two projects carried out by international organizations. About 95 to 105 truckloads entered Gaza through Kerem Shalom crossing in southeast Gaza Strip.

Ra'ed Fattouh, a liaison official coordinating goods entrance in Gaza, said Israel only allows 114 kinds of products through the commercial crossings, out of 4,000 kinds of products allowed into the enclave before the blockade was imposed three years ago.


Israeli Radio quoted unnamed Israeli political sources as saying that Israel may offer the Gaza Strip population some additional easiness, on condition that aid and construction materials would go to the population through international organizations and not directly to Hamas.

Arab media reports said on Sunday that there is a European Union (EU) proposal presented to the International Quartet, aiming at lifting the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip. The proposal includes sending EU inspectors to the crossing between Gaza and Egypt, as well as to the shores of the enclave.

Ghassan al-Khatib, a spokesman of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) government in the West Bank, told Xinhua that the PNA welcomes any effort "to defy the Israeli blockade and end it." However, he denied that the PNA has been informed about any EU proposal in this respect.

"The Israeli blockade is unfair and illegal," said al-Khatib, adding "it should be lifted immediately. The PNA works in more than one direction and at all levels and adopts the proposal of heading to the UN Security Council to end the blockade."


Meanwhile, Salah al-Bardaweel, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, said his movement "doesn't oppose the temporary return of the EU inspectors to Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt to ease the movement of passengers and goods without any Israeli interference."

"The world has to be convinced that it is the right of our people to have their own free and independent terminals and harbors that are not controlled by the Israeli occupation or by any other force," al-Bardaweel told Xinhua, adding his movement is willing to study any proposal that ends the blockade.

Ismail Radwan, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza said any international plan "should have a united aim, which is completely lifting the Israeli blockade without any precondition and easing the movement of people and the needed goods."

The EU inspectors left Rafah crossing right after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Egypt frequently reopens the crossing for several days for humanitarian reasons. Last week, Egypt opened Rafah crossing until a further notice following the Israeli attack on the flotilla.

Meanwhile, Hamas officials are afraid that Egyptian decision to reopen Rafah crossing is not permanent and aims only at easing international pressure on Egypt.

Ghazi Hamad, the Hamas director of Rafah crossing, revealed that Hamas has started intensive contacts with Egyptian officials to find a practical method to ease the traveling of the Gaza Strip population and keep the crossing permanently open.

Source: Xinhua
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