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Israel to Ease Land Blockade on Gaza

Under international pressure, Israel is easing its crippling land blockade on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Israel's security Cabinet gave final approval to allow a long list of non-military supplies into the Gaza Strip. All food items will be allowed in, as well as kitchen utensils, towels, mattresses and some building materials.

The decision comes three weeks after Israeli commandos stormed a flotilla of aid ships trying to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza. Nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed, sparking international outrage and demands for easing of the blockade.

Israel says it wants to ease the suffering of Palestinian civilians, but it will continue to maintain a tight sea blockade on Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "Our government's policy towards Gaza is clear: Israel seeks to keep out of Gaza weapons and material that Hamas uses to prepare and carry out terror and rocket attacks against Israel and its civilians. All other goods will be allowed into Gaza."

Mr. Netanyahu made the announcement after meeting with international Middle East envoy Tony Blair. "This new policy allows the government of Israel and the prime minister to maintain their absolute determination to protect Israel's security, whilst improving significantly the lives of people in Gaza," said Mr. Blair.

Israel's ban on building materials like cement has prevented Palestinian reconstruction since the end of the Gaza War 17 months ago. The ban was aimed at preventing Hamas from rebuilding bunkers and other military infrastructure. But now, construction materials will be allowed into Gaza under international supervision.