News / Middle East

Supplies Flow Into Gaza as Israel Eases Land Blockade

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Robert Berger

Under international pressure, Israel is easing its grip on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Hundreds of trucks laden with goods are rolling into Gaza this week, as Israel eases its crippling three-year-old blockade.  All food supplies and some building materials are being allowed in for the first time since the Palestinian militant group Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007.

The aim of the Israeli blockade was to isolate Hamas, which Israel and some other countries regard as a terrorist organization.

But Israel was forced to change course after its deadly commando raid on a flotilla of aid ships trying to break the Gaza blockade three weeks ago.  Nine pro-Palestinian activists, including an American citizen, were killed, sparking international outrage and fresh demands to lift the blockade.

"Ultimately, we don't see the people of Gaza as our enemy, and we have no problem with that steady flow of civilian goods to the civilian population," Israeli spokesman, Mark Regev said.

At the same time, the sea blockade will remain in force to prevent weapons smuggling. 

"We cannot allow missiles, rockets, from Iran, from Syria, from Hezbollah in Lebanon to reach Hamas in Gaza, because if they achieve those weapons they'll just be shot at our civilians," said Regev.

International Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair visited an Israeli border crossing and watched the convoys of trucks entering Gaza.

"I wanted to come down here to the crossing to see how things were going and what changes are going to happen.  Essentially the new policy's already been put into effect," Blair said.  "The purpose of this is to help people in Gaza with daily life, to give them some hope and some prospect for the future."

But Palestinians describe the Israeli move as a public relations ploy aimed at appeasing international anger.  They say that as long as the sea blockade is in force, Gaza remains under siege.

Middeast Quartet envoy

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