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Israel's Security Cabinet Delays Easing Gaza Blockade

The Israeli security Cabinet met Wednesday to discuss the possibility of easing Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, but adjourned without making any final decisions.

The security Cabinet is expected to reconvene Thursday to continue discussions on proposals that would expand a list of goods and supplies Israel permits into Gaza. The proposal would also include a "blacklist" of items that will be banned, particularly items that could be put to use in manufacturing weapons.

The new approach to the blockade was formulated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former British prime minister Tony Blair, who is the envoy for the Quartet of international powers seeking peace in the region.

Cabinet ministers may also approve a plan to allow building materials, such as cement and steel, for construction projects sponsored by the United Nations.

Israel has faced intense international pressure to end the blockade since Israeli commandos killed nine pro-Palestinian activists in a raid last month on an aid flotilla headed to Gaza.

The pro-Palestinian group behind the flotilla said Wednesday it would send another six ships to try and break the blockade at the end of July.

The international community has criticized the Gaza blockade as collective punishment. The U.N. and human rights groups say many essential items are not getting in, and are forcing Palestinians to rely on the black market - which in turn empowers smugglers and militants.

However, a top Israeli security official said Tuesday Israel would face a huge security threat if it lifted its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin said Palestinian militants in Gaza have about 5,000 rockets, some with a range of up to 40 kilometers. He says about 4,000 of those rockets belong to Hamas, the group that took control of Gaza in 2007.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.