Israel's easing of Gaza blockade doesn't address banking, travel rules
Israel's announcement yesterday of an easing of the Gaza blockade on civilians meets international demands. But the UN and other groups are waiting to see how much actually changes on the ground.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Israel's decision to ease the impact of a three-year blockade on Gaza appears to have relieved diplomatic pressure on the Jewish state following the fatal intercept of a protest flotilla. But critics warn that the partial measure, which does not include lifting the naval blockade, may not be enough to revive Gaza's economy and relieve the distress of the 1.5 million Palestinians living there.Skip to next paragraph
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In the coming days, Israel will begin allowing thousands of types of civilian goods into Gaza, including building materials necessary for reconstructing infrastructure after last year's war with Hamas. Previously, Israel only allowed about 100 kinds of goods into Gaza.
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Israel hopes the move will deflate a push for an international investigation of the May 31 storming of the Gaza-bound "Freedom Flotilla" that left nine activists dead. International groups such as the United Nations and the European Union may reserve judgment to see how much the flow of goods increases under the new policy.
"This is significant. It is what the international community has been asking for,'' says a Western-based diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity. At the same time, "the international community doesn't want to get excited about an announcement. Inevitably there's going to be a degree of caution.''
But former Prime Minister Blair, who negotiated the relaxation with Israel, said in a statement that he "strongly" endorsed the decision and that he expected the measure to "radically'' change the flow of goods into Gaza. "Plainly, there are still issues to be addressed and the test, of course, will not be what is said but what is done,'' he said.
'Not the end of the blockade'
Indeed, critics warned that the decision does not address freeing up Gaza's agricultural exports to Europe, or the reopening of Israel's main commercial crossing into Gaza at Karni. The policy change also doesn't mention whether Israel will allow its banks to reestablish ties with Gazan banks, or whether civilians will be permitted to travel between Gaza and the West Bank.