Israel unveils new Gaza 'blacklist' before Obama meeting

Israel published on Monday a new "blacklist" list of goods that it will not let into the Gaza Strip under a move to ease its blockade of the Palestinian territory.

Israel unveils new Gaza 'blacklist' before Obama meeting

Israel published on Monday a new "blacklist" list of goods that it will not let into the Gaza Strip under a move to ease its blockade of the Palestinian territory.

The new blockade rules come in response to an outcry following a deadly Israeli raid on a blockade-busting flotilla at the end of May that 9 Turkish activists brutally were killed.

Israel will continue to ban most travel and exports and restrict the import of desperately needed construction materials, the new rules are unlikely to restore the territory's devastated economy or allow rebuilding of all that was destroyed in last year's war.

Gaza business leaders and rights activists said the measures are far short of what Gaza needs, and that the only active cargo crossing, Kerem Shalom, may not be enought to bring in all the goods now permitted.

On Monday, goods dropped off at Kerem Shalom included washing machines, which were previously banned from import. Aid supplies that had been transported on the intercepted flotilla also found their way to the crossing, including previously banned mattresses.

Obama, who is hosting Netanyahu at the White House on Tuesday, has said the blockade is unsustainable and demanded that it be eased significantly. Other world leaders have asked for a complete lifting of the border closure.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said Monday that the new procedure will make a "significant" improvement in the lives of people in Gaza.

"No building home"

Construction materials such as cement, steel cables and concrete blocks will be permitted into Gaza only for projects supervised by international aid agencies. The internationally funded construction of schools, sewage treatment plants and housing projects in Gaza has largely been on hold since 2006, but Israeli officials promised to work quickly now to deliver the supplies.

Aid groups estimate than Gaza needs another 86,000 housing units — mostly to account for population growth, but also to replace thousands of apartments that were destroyed during last year's Gaza war and previous Israeli military offensives.

All goods will be funneled through Kerem Shalom, Israel's main cargo crossing into Gaza, and Israel does not plan to reopen additional passages it used before the blockade.

Kerem Shalom consists of three paved lots, each ringed by walls of cement slabs, as well as one opening to the Israeli side and another to the Gaza side.

However, Sari Bashi of the Israeli human rights group Gisha said the benefit to Gaza will be limited.

 Gisha, the human rights group, said that even at the expanded capacity Kerem Shalom could supply only about 70 percent of Gaza's daily needs.

"Gaza residents can now purchase Israeli-made products, but they are still prevented from engaging in dignified, productive work and from traveling," she said.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri dismissed Israel's new easing "worthless," demanding that the blockade be lifted entirely.

The ban on the import of raw materials and exports forced most of Gaza's 3,900 factories to shut down, wiping out tens of thousands of jobs. Raw materials not on the banned list will now be allowed to enter Gaza, but exports will continue to be banned, with the exception of small seasonal shipments of strawberries and flowers.

"Meeting with Obama"

The White House welcomed the changes that were announced Monday as Prime Minister Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Washington for a meeting with President Barack Obama.

"This is an important step in implementing the new policy announced by Israel two weeks ago. The president looks forward to discussing it with the prime minister tomorrow," he added.

U.N. envoy Serry has described the blockade as unsustainable and unacceptable.

"I also hope that very soon we will be seeing exports. Because how can you have a functioning Gazan economy without having exports also facilitated," he said.

Under the old rules, Israel banned everything it wanted under a blockade on the impoverished enclave.

Israel has been under pressure to ease its blockade since the May 31 raid on ships bringing aid to Gaza that sparked an international outcry.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted as telling the Turkish Hurriyet newspaper that Ankara would cut ties with Israel unless it receives an apology over the raid.

But, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters during a visit to Latvia that his country had no intention of apologising.

Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel, cancelled joint military operations and banned Israeli military aircraft from Turkish airspace after the murders in international waters.

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Temmuz 2010, 11:48

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