Israeli security cabinet on Thursday approved a plan to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip after international pressure over deadly attack on Turkish aid ship.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office released few details about the possible changes in its three-year-old blockade, and it was not clear whether any firm decisions had been made.
The 31 May attack in which Israel raided a six-ship convoy in international waters that was carrying humanitarian goods and activists and heading for Gaza killed nine Turkish civilians, wounding at least 30 others.
Under the plan, Israel would "liberalise the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza (and) expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision,' a statement from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
But, the announcement did not specify how procedures for the import of commercial goods would change or list any specific products, saying only that cabinet ministers would decide in the coming days how to implement the new policy.
The siege has prevented Gaza from rebuilding after Israel's deadly assault 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.
Israel's naval blockade will also remain in force.
The statement noted that Israel would "continue existing security procedures to prevent the inflow of weapons and war materiel."
"Totally lifting siege"
Commenting on the Israeli announcement, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said some of the goods that will now be allowed in were "trivial and secondary".
"What is needed is a complete lifting of the blockade. Goods and people must be free to enter and leave. Gaza especially needs contruction material, which must be allowed to come in without restrictions," he said.
In the West Bank, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the closure should be ended altogether. "The siege is collective punishment and it must be lifted."
Amid the heavy international criticism that followed the Israeli naval raid, Egypt also 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.
On Sunday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said the blockade violated the Geneva Conventions and called for its lifting. It said "the whole of Gaza's civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility".
Arab League chief Amr Moussa visited the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the highest Arab official to do so since 2007, and also called for an end to Israel's blockade of the Palestinian territory.
Turkey demands international independent panel on aid attack on international waters, rejects Israel's internal probe.
Related news reports:Last Mod: 17 Haziran 2010, 12:42