Accessibility links

Breaking News

Head of Arab League Visits Gaza, Demands End to Blockade

Arab states are stepping up the pressure on Israel to ease its grip on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, made a rare visit to Gaza and demanded an end to Israel's three-year-old crippling blockade.

Moussa said the world is standing with the people of Palestine and the people of Gaza.

The visit came two weeks after Israeli commandos raided a flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza in defiance of the blockade. Eight Turkish activists and one American of Turkish origin were killed, sparking international outrage.

At the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is willing to ease sanctions, but the blockade will not be lifted.

He said Israel will allow more civilian supplies into Gaza, but it cannot permit the free flow of weapons to the ruling Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Israel imposed the blockade three years ago, after Hamas seized control of Gaza, ousting the western-backed Fatah faction led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who now heads a more moderate government in the West Bank that is involved in peace talks with Israel.

The Arab League backs Mr. Abbas and opposed the Hamas takeover of Gaza. But in the wake of the uproar over the flotilla incident, Amr Moussa became the first senior Arab official to visit Gaza since Hamas seized power.

Moussa urged Hamas and Fatah to patch up their differences and negotiate an agreement on reconciliation.