06/17/2010

'Israel to ease Gaza blockade'


 

Human rights groups say new measures do not go far enough

Gaza


 

Israel will ease much of its land blockade on the Gaza Strip, hoping to stop growing international criticism following the assault on a flotilla of aid ships in which nine activists were killed.

A statement from prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office said that Israeli leaders decided today to expand the number of products Israel will allow into Gaza, including construction materials.

"It was agreed to liberalise the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza [and] expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision," an official statement said, without specifying any product list.

The new arrangements, which were decided upon in a series of meetings between the Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair and Netanyahu, over the past 10 days, are expected to cover three areas:

• A list of prohibited goods not allowed into Gaza, replacing the current system of a list of approved goods

• Agreement to allow construction materials for UN-sponsored projects

• Israel to consider allowing EU monitors to be stationed at crossings between Israel and Gaza

Blair described the move as a "very important step".

"It will allow us to keep weapons and weapon materials out of Gaza, but on the other hand to help the Palestinian population there," he told the Israeli daily Haaretz. "The policy in Gaza should be to isolate the extremists but to help the people."

The Israeli cabinet minister Isaac Herzog told Israel's army radio: "We must understand that the blockade implemented until this time is outdated and no longer applicable in the current international and diplomatic climate."

The plan falls short of demands by the international community on Israel to lift the blockade and allow the legitimate Gaza economy to recover.

Currently Israel operates a frequently changing list of items permitted into Gaza, with a ban on all other goods. By reversing this approach to a banned list the hope is that many more items will be permitted and there will be greater transparency and accountability.

Gisha, an Israeli human rights organisation, suggested the move was merely cosmetic.

"The time has come for Israel to ask serious questions about how three years of closure have promoted the goals it declared for itself and what has been the effect on 1.5 million people whose right to travel and to engage in productive work has been denied. We don't need cosmetic changes. We need a policy that recognises the rights of Palestinian residents of Gaza not just to consume but also to produce and to travel."

Chris Gunness, UN spokesman, said the blockade should be lifted entirely. "We need to judge the Israeli authorities by deeds not words because there have been many words in the past," he said.

"What we've been getting into Gaza is a drop in the bucket and, given the scale of the humanitarian task, we need to see the blockade ultimately lifted not eased."

The UN has been trying to import construction materials for the past 18 months to repair schools damaged in the Gaza war of 2008-9 and to construct new buildings to accommodate Gaza's exploding population. Israel has refused on the grounds that the materials could fall into the hands of Hamas and be used to make weapons or build underground bunkers.

The UN has consistently offered to guarantee the security of such material.

The Israeli military said yesterday that it had reached an agreement with the UN on the transfer of humanitarian aid – medical supplies, food and clothing – that was on board the flotilla to Gaza. It made no mention of construction materials that formed the bulk of the flotilla's consignment.

The inquiry set up by Israel to examine the events surrounding the flotilla assault is to hold its first meeting today.

 

11:48 Posted by Universal in Actualité | Permalink | Comments (15) | Tags: gaza blockade, israel, blair, un, human rights groups |  Facebook |

Comments

Prisoners And what about the 11.000 Palestinians (including children) in the Israeli Apartheids-camps?

Posted by: ANP | 06/17/2010

liens diplomatiques La Turquie envisage de réduire ses liens diplomatiques avec Israël (AFP)
17/06/2010

"Si ces conditions ne sont pas respectées, diminuer le niveau de la représentation turque (en Israël) ne prendra pas longtemps", a précisé cette source à l'AFP, sous couvert d'anonymat.
Embargo allégé, quotidien inchangé
La Turquie envisage de baisser le niveau de ses liens diplomatiques avec Israël si ce pays ne remplit pas une série de conditions après le raid israélien contre un convoi maritime international qui a coûté la vie à neuf Turcs, a-t-on appris jeudi de source diplomatique turque.

"Si ces conditions ne sont pas respectées, diminuer le niveau de la représentation turque (en Israël) ne prendra pas longtemps", a précisé cette source à l'AFP, sous couvert d'anonymat.

La Turquie réduira alors son niveau de représentation en Israël du rang d'ambassadeur à celui de chargé d'affaires. Le responsable n'a pas indiqué de délai pour une telle décision mais des journaux turcs supposent qu'une telle menace pourrait être mise à exécution d'ici la fin du mois au plus tard.

Les conditions posées par Ankara sont des excuses officielles de la part d'Israël pour son raid meurtrier du 31 mai contre une flottille d'aide à destination de Gaza sous blocus israélien, la mise en place d'une commission d'enquête internationale, la restitution "immédiate" des bateaux saisis par Israël lors de son opération et le paiement de compensations à la Turquie, a ajouté cette source.

La Turquie demande aussi la fin dans les plus brefs délais du blocus contre Gaza, a souligné le responsable.

Le raid israélien a sérieusement mis à mal le partenariat stratégique entre les deux pays, soutenu par les Etats-Unis mais déjà passablement détérioré depuis l'offensive israélienne contre Gaza en 2008/2009.

Après l'assaut contre la flottille, la Turquie a rappelé son ambassadeur à Tel Aviv et menacé Israël de sanctions.

L'abordade israélien meurtrier dans les eaux internationales a provoqué un tollé international. Le Conseil de sécurité de l'ONU a demandé une enquête sur cette intervention militaire, ainsi que la libération des navires et des civils détenus et l'acheminement de l'aide à la population de Gaza.

Israël a annoncé la création d'une commission d'enquête, comprenant deux observateurs étrangers, décision qui a été rejetée comme inadéquate par Ankara.

Posted by: ANP | 06/17/2010

Embargo allégé, quotidien inchangé

L’embargo enserrant la bande de Gaza sera allégé par Israël. Désormais, il visera uniquement à empêcher le Hamas de consolider son arsenal d’armes et son infrastructure militaire.

Correspondante à Jérusalem
Renée-Anne Gutter
Mis en ligne le 17/06/2010

Israël va alléger l’embargo qu’il maintient contre la bande de Gaza depuis que le Hamas y a pris le pouvoir en 2007. Le Premier ministre Netanyahou en a scellé le principe avec Tony Blair, l’émissaire du quartet international (Etats-Unis, Union européenne, Russie, Onu). Et le cabinet de sécurité israélien doit en finaliser les modalités ce jeudi. Après quoi, le ministre de la Défense, Ehoud Barak, en fera rapport au médiateur américain, George Mitchell. L’allégement sera cependant loin de satisfaire les Palestiniens.

A l’origine, le blocus -par terre et par mer- visait non seulement à freiner l’armement du Hamas, mais aussi à renverser le gouvernement islamiste et à récupérer le soldat Shalit, otage à Gaza depuis 2006. Désormais, l’embargo devrait uniquement s’axer sur le sécuritaire: empêcher le Hamas de consolider son arsenal d’armes et son infrastructure militaire.

Mais le quotidien de la majorité des Gazaouis ne s’en trouvera pas nécessairement normalisé. Et la minorité aisée -haut-fonctionnaires, politiciens, marchands- continuera de toute façon à s’approvisionner aux tunnels de contrebande sous la frontière égyptienne.

Primo, l’assouplissement israélien ne concernera pas les voies maritimes. Le blocus naval de Gaza restera entier. Certes, des armes entrent par les tunnels de contrebande. Mais la voie maritime est considérée encore plus dangereuse, car elle permet l’apport de missiles et équipements lourds. Et M. Netanyahou insiste: pas question de tolérer l’établissement d’un port iranien dans les eaux de Gaza, aux portes d’Israël. Ce blocus continuera toutefois à entraver la pêche des Gazaouis et à paralyser ce secteur qui était florissant dans le passé.

Secundo, les postes de passage entre Israël et Gaza se rouvriront à la plupart des 4 000 produits de consommation qui atteignaient Gaza avant 2007. Une manne, en principe, puisque seule une centaine de denrées étaient autorisées à franchir les passages depuis le blocus. Mais nombre de marchandises resteront cataloguées "soutien au combat" et donc interdites. Notamment, les matériaux de construction et les éléments pouvant aider à l’assemblage d’armes, tels ciment, fer, tuyauteries, outillages de toutes sortes. Or, la privation de ces matériaux empêche la restauration des structures civiles, qui ont souffert de la guerre d’Israël à Gaza il y a un an et demi.

Selon l’organisation israélienne des droits de l’homme, B’Tselem, 3 500 logements n’ont toujours pas été rebâtis. Et 93 % de l’eau de Gaza est polluée du fait que les réseaux de puits, égouts et purification n’ont pu être réparés. Israël autorisera toutefois l’entrée de certains de ces matériaux dans le cadre de projets d’aide spécifiques de pays étrangers ou d’organisations internationales.

Il n’est donc pas clair dans quelle mesure Israël permettra à nouveau l’entrée de matières premières, dont l’absence depuis 2007, selon B’Tselem, a contraint 95 % des ateliers et usines de Gaza à la fermeture. Ou l’entrée de produits pesticides et pièces de rechange pour irrigation, dont l’absence a paralysé l’agriculture locale.

Il n’a pas encore été spécifié non plus dans quelle mesure Israël rouvrira les portes à l’exportation de Gaza. Seules des fleurs et fraises cultivées malgré les difficultés ont été autorisées ces dernières années à atteindre les marchés européens. Les camions entiers de vêtements, meubles et autres produits fabriqués qui quittaient Gaza chaque jour pour Israël, ont disparu depuis 2007. A cause du ralentissement de tous ces secteurs de production et de commerce, Gaza enregistre aujourd’hui 40 % de chômage, et 80 % de sa population dépend de l’aide humanitaire.

Par ailleurs, Israël continuera à empêcher la circulation palestinienne entre Gaza et la Cisjordanie, et à restreindre la liberté de mouvement générale de et vers Gaza. L’Egypte a rouvert sa frontière à Rafah, mais les entrées et sorties y demeurent limitées. Gaza restera donc prise en étau, fût-ce un étau desserré.

Posted by: ANP | 06/17/2010

Israeli diplomat expelled Otraverdad — 16 juin 2010 — DUBLIN (AP) - Ireland announced Tuesday it's expelling an Israeli diplomat in punishment for the Mossad use of forged Irish passports to assassinate a top Hamas official in Dubai.

Israel has refused to confirm or deny its agents' involvement in the January slaying of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

Posted by: ANP | 06/17/2010

'levée partielle est insuffisante' Les Palestiniens jugent insuffisante la levée partielle du blocus de Gaza

Le Soir, Rédaction en ligne
jeudi 17 juin 2010, 21:44

L’Autorité palestinienne a jugé jeudi insuffisante la décision israélienne d’assouplir son blocus de la bande de Gaza, exigeant sa levée totale. Les Etats-Unis et l’ONU se montrent moins durs.

M. Abbas « considère qu’il n’y a pas de solution partielle pour lever le siège », a souligné M. Erakat, qualifiant la décision israélienne d’« opération de relations publiques ».

Dans un communiqué, il accuse Israël de vouloir ainsi « faire croire qu’il a allégé son blocus de quatre ans et ses restrictions encore plus anciennes au mouvement de la population de Gaza. En réalité, le siège de Gaza, illégalement imposé aux Palestiniens, continue sans répit ».

Au total, Israël n’autorise l’entrée que de 114 produits, alors qu’il en faudrait 8.000 pour répondre aux « besoins fondamentaux des Palestiniens », selon le texte.

Le Hamas, au pouvoir à Gaza, d’où il a chassé l’Autorité palestinienne en juin 2007, a aussi rejeté l’annonce israélienne, exigeant la levée totale du blocus.

Le cabinet de sécurité israélien a décidé d’alléger le blocus, en facilitant l’entrée de « biens à usage civil » et de « matériaux pour des projets civils » à Gaza. Mais il veut « poursuivre les procédures de sécurité existantes pour prévenir l’entrée d’armes et de matériel de guerre », selon un communiqué.

Washington salue la décision
Les Etats-Unis ont salué jeudi la décision israélienn.

« Nous saluons les principes généraux annoncés (…). Ils reflètent les changements dont nous parlons avec nos amis israéliens », a déclaré Mark Toner, un porte-parole du département d’Etat.

« Nous espérons que le développement et la mise en oeuvre de ces principes amélioreront la situation à Gaza », a-t-il poursuivi.

M. Toner a confié que la diplomatie américaine attendait de connaître les modalités précises de cette décision selon lui « positive », et intervenue à la suite de fortes pressions internationales contre le gouvernement israélien.

L’Amérique, a-t-il souligné, veut une extension des produits autorisés à l’importation à Gaza, a-t-il souligné, citant « l’aide humanitaire », mais aussi « les matériaux de construction ».

Ces changements devront intervenir en tenant compte « des besoins d’Israël en matière de sécurité ».

L’allègement du blocus de la bande de Gaza annoncé jeudi par Israël constitue « un pas dans la bonne direction », a déclaré le porte-parole de la Maison Blanche, Robert Gibbs. Saluant cette initiative, M. Gibbs a annoncé que les Etats-Unis allaient continuer à coordonner leurs efforts avec Israël sur ce dossier.

ONU : une décision « encourageante »
Le chef de l’ONU Ban Ki-moon considère « encourageante » la décision d’Israël, a déclaré son porte-parole jeudi.

« Le secrétaire général trouve encourageant que le gouvernement israélien réexamine sa politique à l’égard de Gaza et il espère que la décision d’aujourd’hui du cabinet de sécurité israélien constituera un pas véritable vers la satisfaction des besoins à Gaza », a dit Martin Nesirky au cours d’un point de presse.

Il a cependant ajouté que l’ONU « continuait à promouvoir un changement fondamental de politique, comme l’a souhaité le Quartette (pour le Proche-Orient), de sorte que l’assistance humanitaire, les biens commerciaux et les personnes puissent emprunter des points de passage ouverts et que la reconstruction puisse avoir lieu ».

M. Ban a appelé à plusieurs reprises à la levée du blocus, estimant qu’il causait des souffrances « inacceptables » à la population de Gaza.

M. Nesirky a indiqué que M. Ban avait chargé le coordinateur de l’ONU pour le Proche-Orient Robert Serry de se mettre immédiatement en contact avec les autorités israéliennes « pour recueillir davantage d’informations sur leur décision et sur les mesures d’accompagnement et de mise en oeuvre nécessaires ».

Il a souligné que l’ONU était prête à redoubler d’efforts pour aider à la reconstruction de Gaza si nécessaire.

AFP

Posted by: ANP | 06/18/2010

Oxfam calls for end to Gaza blockade
By the CNN Wire Staff
June 14, 2010 -- Updated 1541 GMT (2341 HKT)

Demonstrators walk through central London during a protest against Israel on June 5, 2010.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
EU, Middle East Quartet leaders should pressure Israel, Oxfam says
Blockade has crippled economy, creating widespread unemployment, says group
Gaza needs jobs and raw materials, executive editor says
London, England (CNN) -- Oxfam, a U.K.-based international aid agency, is calling on EU officials and the Middle East Quartet to pressure Israel into lifting the blockade of Gaza.
In a press release titled "Gaza needs jobs, not just aid," Oxfam officials warned Monday that Gaza's economy has been nearly demolished by three years of isolation and will continue to degenerate, socially and economically, unless the blockade ends.
Jeremy Hobbs, executive editor of Oxfam International, said that although Israel has allowed an increased number of food items after a deadly aid flotilla incident May 31, the gesture is not enough.
"While this is certainly welcomed, what Gaza needs most are jobs, raw materials for reconstruction and for industry, and the ability to export -- not just short-term aid and consumer products like jam that, without a job, they can't afford to buy," Hobbs said.
According to Oxfam, the blockade, which impedes thousands of goods from entering Gaza, has led to a "wide-scale shutdown" of Gaza's economy, crippling industries and leaving thousands jobless. Oxfam claims the blockade is an illegal form of punishment and is contrary to international law.
"The blockade has unleashed a tragic chain of reaction that has affected many of Gaza's one and a half million residents," Hobbs said.
"When a factory is forced to shut down because it can't import or export, it doesn't just affect the employees who lose their jobs. Entire families relying on that salary also lose out, becoming dependent on humanitarian aid," he said.
Oxfam's Monday report also stated that Gaza's agricultural production has become "almost paralyzed as farmers cannot export their crops and are prohibited access to 30 percent of farming lands in Gaza."
A once-thriving fishing industry has been destroyed by Israel's maritime restrictions on Palestinian fishing boats to 3 nautical miles from the coast, the report said.
"Gaza, a coastal enclave, now has to import frozen fish from Israel and via the tunnels," the statement said.
Guy Inbar, Israel's coordinator of government activities in the territories, said Monday that Israel has begun to ease restrictions on goods to be delivered to Gaza, including cement for building 150 housing units and other supplies for rebuilding El Bader flour mill, destroyed in one of Israel's military raids.
The Israeli government has said the blockade is necessary to keep weapons from being smuggled into Gaza, where militants plan to use them to attack Israel.
The Palestinian Authority issued a statement Monday calling for a "full and complete lifting of the siege imposed on Gaza" and for reopening passage between the West Bank and the Gaza strip.
The Palestinian Authority also said it welcomed the visit of Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa to Gaza on Sunday.

Posted by: ANP | 06/18/2010

Tony Blair Friday, 18 June 2010

A sop to the outside world

Earlier this week Tony Blair, as Middle East envoy of the Quartet, came out of a meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu saying that the Israeli government was now ready to move to a whole new regime of blockade on the Gaza Strip. The Israelis would allow all civilian goods in except those specifically banned instead of, as now, stopping any goods except those specifically allowed. Yesterday the Israeli cabinet agreed a liberalisation of the blockade which fell short of that. The range of goods allowed through is to be expanded but the basic regime of control is maintained.

Those dashed expectations may be partly a reflection of over-optimism on Tony Blair's part, whose period as Quartet envoy has been notable for its failure to achieve anything of real substance, especially regarding Gaza. But then few, other than Mr Blair, would have felt that the right-wing government of Israel would really dismantle its blockade on Gaza, whatever the pressures from the United States or elsewhere.

Israel feels a blockade is essential to its security, and any substantive easing will only serve the interests of Hamas, which controls the Strip. Its decision now to allow in a greater volume and type of humanitarian aid is essentially a sop to Washington and international opinion after its assault earlier this month on the flotilla taking aid to Gaza. The easing may help alleviate some of the suffering of the population, but the blockade remains tight with the object of putting maximum pressure on Hamas.

So too with the announcement earlier this week that the government would be setting up an internal inquiry into the circumstances of that assault and the resulting deaths of nine activists. Like the Widgery Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, it will be headed by an ex-Chief Justice and consist of a retired general and a professor of international law. The aim will be to establish the legality of the blockade and point out lessons for the military to manage these interventions more effectively in the future. It will not question the policy or the justification for the action – both of which have aroused condemnation from the UN and most of Israel's allies.

The blockade only enhances the power of Hamas and hurts the people of the Strip. But after this week it remains clearer than ever that Israel is simply not going to change course. If the world wants to help the Gazan people it is up to the United Nations to despatch naval aid convoys, or for Egypt to keep open its southern land crossing permanently.

Posted by: ANP | 06/18/2010

World comedy Israel's partial easing of Gaza blockade dismissed as inadequate

Cool response from international community as Palestinians demand blockade be lifted completely

Israel's decision today to allow a partial easing of the blockade of Gaza was given a cool response by the international community, while Palestinians demanded the blockade be lifted completely. Aid agencies condemned it as inadequate.

The move, triggered by anger over Israel's bloody interception of the Gaza "freedom flotilla," is expected to end restrictions on food and some other consumer items entering the coastal territory. But there was no relief for urgently needed construction materials for private building or for cross-border trade and movement.

Expectations of a far bigger breakthrough, raised by the row over the killing of nine Turkish activists by Israeli commandos, were dashed in part because Israel's announcement did not give enough detail. Israel is maintaining its strict maritime blockade to prevent weapons being smuggled into Gaza.

"It is good that Israel is giving serious consideration to resolving these issues," said a British Foreign Office spokesman. "But further work is needed. We need to see the additional steps still to be announced." EU officials said they were disappointed by the decision.

Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that controls Gaza, dismissed the changes as trivial. Its rival, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, has said the blockade must end completely.

Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, warned Lebanon meanwhile that it would be held responsible for any "violent and dangerous confrontation" as a new aid flotilla prepared to sail for Gaza. Organisers say the Mariam, carrying Arab and European women activists, and the Naji al-Ali are to leave from Beirut in the next few days to try to break the blockade.

Israeli media said the shift would mean allowing in previously banned products such as jam, pasta and milk. But this will not stop pressure to improve conditions for Gaza's 1.5 million people with limited supplies of food and humanitarian aid and goods smuggled through tunnels from Egypt.

Experts said a key question was the meaning of a pledge to "expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision". If this means only the UN, the impact will inevitably be limited. The announcement made no mention of a timeline or monitoring of "dual use" goods by the international community, nor of opening border crossings or permitting exports and the movement of people and aid crucial for the rebuilding a shattered economy.

"The announcement is a welcome step but it still appears to be a baby step, not the breakthrough people in Gaza hoped for," said Oxfam's Olga Ghazaryan.

Salam Kanaan, of Save the Children, said: "Simply easing the blockade by allowing more goods in is not enough. What about sick children who need life-saving medical attention out of Gaza? Will they and their families be allowed to move freely across the border?"

"This announcement makes clear that Israel is not intending to end its collective punishment of Gaza's civilian population, but only ease it," said Malcolm Smart of Amnesty International. "This is not enough."

Tony Blair said the Quartet – the UN, US, EU and Russia – would continue talks with Israel "to flesh out the principles" that had now been agreed. "The decision to allow foodstuffs and household items is a good start."

The EU's foreign policy chief, Lady Ashton, urged Israel to ensure that "many, many more goods can get in to Gaza". Diplomats say privately that they fear weeks or months of negotiations lie ahead.

The knotty political issue here is that the US, Britain and the EU all insist they want to end an "unacceptable and unsustainable" blockade but share Israel's goal of seeking to weaken Hamas, which has more or less maintained a de facto ceasefire since last year's war. It still holds the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.

Ian Black, Middle East editor
guardian.co.uk
Thursday 17 June 2010 20.22 BST

Posted by: ANP | 06/18/2010

Israël: manipulation et mensonges Bateau de militantes libanaises pour Gaza: "Israël" interpelle l'ONU 19/06/2010

Bien que le Hezbollah ait souligné, vendredi, qu'il n'était pas impliqué dans le bateau de "Mariam", la représentante israélienne à l'ONU a estimé dans une lettre adressée à l'organisation que l'entité sioniste était en droit d'user de "tous les moyens" pour éviter que des militantes se rendent par bateau du Liban à Gaza.

Dans une lettre adressée au secrétaire général de l'ONU Ban Ki-moon, citée par des radios et les sites internet de journaux israéliens, l'ambassadrice Gabriella Shalev indique qu'"Israël" soupçonne ces militantes d'être liées au Hezbollah.

"Israël se réserve le droit en conformité avec la législation internationale d'avoir recours à tous les moyens nécessaires pour empêcher ces bateaux de violer le blocus maritime imposé à la bande de Gaza", a indiqué le site du journal Haaretz, citant la lettre de Shalev.

"Il semble que quelques bateaux ont prévu de partir du Liban pour naviguer jusqu'à la bande de Gaza qui est sous le contrôle du régime "terroriste" du Hamas", a-t-elle ajouté.

"Alors que ceux qui organisent cette opération affirment qu'ils veulent (...) apporter une assistance humanitaire au peuple de Gaza, la véritable nature de ces actions reste douteuse", a-t-elle prétendu.

Un groupe d'une cinquantaine de femmes, dont 30 Libanaises, entend rallier Gaza à bord d'un navire chargé d'aides, le "Mariam". Aucune date de départ n'a encore été avancée.

Les pressions de la communauté internationale sur "Israël" pour améliorer le sort des 1,5 million d'habitants du territoire palestinien se sont intensifiées après l'assaut meurtrier de la marine israélienne le 31 mai contre une flottille humanitaire internationale qui tentait de "briser" ce blocus.

Posted by: ANP | 06/20/2010

Israel to 'Ease' Gaza Blockade
6/18/2010

Israel's security cabinet has agreed to ease the land blockade imposed on Gaza following an international outcry over a deadly raid on an aid flotilla convoy.

An official Israeli statement said on Thursday that "it was agreed to liberalise the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza [and] expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision".

But Hamas, the Palestinian group which controls the territory, rejected the Israeli announcement as "propaganda".

"Our request is that the border should be open completely. This new Israeli system is not acceptable," Ahmed al-Kord from the Hamas-run Gaza government's ministry of social affairs, said.

Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Jerusalem, said the statement made no reference to the naval blockade that Israel also imposes on Gaza.

"Looking at the statement in its entirety, the international community cannot be pleased with this, as they have been asking for a lifting of the blockade," he said.

Thursday's announcement appeared to indicate that Israel would allow international organisations, such as the UN, to import previously banned building materials, vital to reconstruction after its war on Gaza.

The security cabinet, however, noted that "existing security procedures to prevent the inflow of weapons and war material" would continue.

While an exact list of the products that will be allowed into Gaza has not been released, the Ha'aretz newspaper reported the Israeli-approved items could include all food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils and mattresses .

'Not Enough'

"The detail is what matters," Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said in response to the Israeli decision.

Israel must "make sure that many, many more goods can get in to Gaza to enable people to reconstruct their homes, to build schools, to place infrastructure, and also to enable people to get on with ordinary lives," Ashton said.

Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa, said Israel's announcement was not enough.

"Israel must now comply with its obligations as the occupying power under international law and immediately lift the blockade," Smart said.

"Just as important as allowing goods into Gaza is allowing exports to leave Gaza, yet there is no mention of this in today's announcement.

"Banning the vast majority of exports, raw materials and the movement of people has destroyed the economy of Gaza, and pushed its population into unemployment, poverty and dependency on aid agencies for survival. These problems will not be solved while the blockade continues."

The blockade was imposed in 2007 after Hamas took control of the territory.

'Relieving Pressure'

Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas leader, also dismissed the Israeli decision as an attempt to "relieve the pressure" following the attack on the aid flotilla on May 31.

Israel has faced mounting international callsto ease or lift the blockade after its soldiers attacked a Gaza-bound aid ship and killed nine pro-Palestinian activists in international waters.

"We in Hamas reject the Zionist decision, which is an attempt to obscure the international decision to completely lift the siege on the Gaza Strip," Radwan said.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority which rivals Hamas, also called for a complete end to the Gaza blockade.

"The siege is collective punishment and it must be lifted," Saeb Erekat, a spokesperson for the Palestinain Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas, the president, said.

Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent arms smuggling to Hamas.

But the International Committee of the Red Cross has described it as illegal.

(Al Jazeera and Agencies)

Posted by: Mork | 06/20/2010

Israeli troops are stealing How can we believe the story of Israel and Tony Blair 'TO EASE THE GAZA BLOCKADE' if they rob everybody?

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Israeli Soldiers Using Credit/Debit Cards Stolen in Flotilla Massacre and Kidnapping.
Passports still not returned. Should not the government of those citizens kidnapped by Israel DEMAND the passport and other belongings be RETURNED IMMEDIATELY.
Let's hold our Member of Parliament to account. Write to them and demand a response. If they don't respond then publish the fact that they remained SILENT!

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Gaza convoy activists claim Israeli soldiers using debit cards stolen in raid
Boarding party troops in deadly flotilla raid confiscated cards and spent on them, claim campaigners who were on board

Haroon Siddique
guardian.co.uk
Friday 18 June 2010 18.59 BST

Israeli troops have been accused of stealing from activists arrested in the assault on the Gaza flotilla after confiscated debit cards belonging to activists were subsequently used.

In their raid of 31 May, the Israeli army stormed the boats on the flotilla and, as well as money and goods destined for the Palestinian relief effort in Gaza, the bulk of which have yet to be returned, took away most of the personal possessions of the activists when taking them into custody.

Individual soldiers appear to have used confiscated debit cards to buy items such as iPod accessories, while mobile phones seized from activists have also been used for calls.

Ebrahim Musaji, 23, of Gloucester, has a bank statement showing his debit card was used in an Israeli vending machine for a purchase costing him 82p on 9 June.

It was then used on a Dutch website, www.thisipod.com, twice on 10 June: once for amounts equivalent to £42.42 and then for £37.83. And a Californian activist, Kathy Sheetz, has alleged that she has been charged more than $1,000 in transactions from vending machines in Israel since 6 June.

Musaji and Sheetz were on board two separate boats – one the Mavi Marmara, on which nine Turkish activists were killed, the other on the Challenger 1. Both activists only entered Israel when arrested, and were in custody for their entire time on Israeli soil.

"They've obviously taken my card and used it," Musaji told the Guardian.

"When they take things like people's videos and debit cards and use them, and their mobile phones, it becomes a bit of a joke.

"We were held hostage, we were attacked, and now there's been theft. If the police confiscate your goods in the UK, they're not going to use your goods and think they can get away with it."

Musaji cancelled his card on 7 June, the day after he returned to Britain, where he is a support worker for adults with learning difficulties. His bank has agreed to treat the transactions as fraudulent and he will not be charged for them. His mobile phone was also used for two short calls in Israel after it had been confiscated.

Another American activist, David Schermerhorn, 80, from Washington state, claims his iPhone was used, while Manolo Luppichini, an Italian journalist, said his card was debited with the equivalent of €54 after it was confiscated.

Activists say Israel still has possession of at least £1m of goods and cash, comprising aid and personal possessions, including laptops and cameras.

Some passports, three of them belonging to British citizens, have still not been returned. On Thursday, delegations in 12 countries, including the UK, held meetings with their respective governments to exert pressure on Israeli to return the seized property.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli embassy in London advised Musaji to register a formal complaint.

"We regard any misconduct as described in Mr Musaji's allegations to be utterly unacceptable and intolerable, and suggest waiting until this subject matter is clarified," she said. "As had happened previously, an Israeli soldier was found guilty of illegal use of a credit card for which he was indicted and sentenced to seven months' imprisonment."

Posted by: Mork | 06/23/2010

Netanyahu Vows to ‘Tighten’ Gaza Blockade
Pasta, Coriander May Flow, But Blockade Here to Stay

by Jason Ditz, June 20, 2010

Hours after the Israeli government announced that it was intending to issue a new “banned goods” list for the Gaza Strip, focused on placating international demands to allow more food and humanitarian goods into the tiny enclave, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a pledge that the move would actually “tighten” the blockade.

“Our friends around the world are getting behind our decision and giving international legitimacy to the security blockade on Hamas,” Netanyahu insisted, adding again that “dual use” goods would continue to be barred from Gaza.

Israel’s military has claimed broad swathes of goods to be “dual use” in the past, including imposing a three year ban on shoes under the claim that shoes could theoretically be made the part of a military uniform, and therefore had a military use.

Officials say that banned luxury goods like pasta and cordiander will be allowed into the Gaza Strip under the new list, but so far the government has been mum on the most needed item, cement. Israel has barred all cement from the strip as a “dual use” good as well, leaving the homes in the region in ruins since the January 2009 invasion despite massive pledges of foreign aid. It seems the changes in the blockade may end up being superficial, and done purely for to score points internationally.

Posted by: ANP | 06/23/2010

'Lieberman changes policy, invites European diplomats to Gaza' 24.06.10

Report: Lieberman changes policy, invites European diplomats to Gaza
Ch. 2: Foreign Minister invites Italian FM to head delegation to Gaza; European MPs to Israel: Lift Gaza blockade completely.

By Haaretz Service and DPA
Tags: Israel news Gaza
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has invited his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini to head a delegation of European diplomats to the Gaza Strip, Channel Two news reported Thursday.

This proposal marks a striking shift in Israeli policy, which has been to discourage and even prevent foreign officials from visiting the Palestinian territory since Hamas violently wrestled control over Gaza in 2007.

According to the report, Lieberman suggested that Frattini and the other European diplomats also invest in Gaza's infrastructure.

Earlier Thursday, the Council of Europe parliamentarians called on Israel to completely end its siege of the Gaza Strip, days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered an ease of the land blockade, which it imposed in 2007.


The Council of Europe parliamentarians Thursday called on Israel to completely end its siege of the Gaza Strip, days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered an ease of the land blockade.

Israel should allow goods to be delivered to the coastal enclave by land and sea, "without prejudice to its own security," so Palestinians can enjoy "normal living conditions," said the resolution adopted by a large majority of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

PACE, consisting of parliamentarians from the 47 members of the Council of Europe, meets four times a year to debate topical issues and give policy advice to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The parliamentarians also criticized the Israeli raid of a Gaza- bound aid flotilla last month as a breach of international law, calling it "manifestly disproportionate."

The group additionally called on Israel to halt the construction of new settlements in occupied territories and East Jerusalem.

Israel's recent easing of the Gaza blockade was described as a "first step" by the assembly. But completely lifting the blockade is "essential" to lower tensions and revive the dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, the Italian social democrat and assembly rapporteur Piero Fassino said.

As part of its efforts to bring peace to the Middle East, PACE regularly brings together members of the Israeli Knesset and the Palestinian Legislative Council for talks.

Posted by: ANP | 06/25/2010

'Obama sets date for Netanyahu meeting after talks delayed by Gaza flotilla' 20.06.10

U.S. president to host PM at the White House on July 6, to discuss Israel's easing of Gaza blockade.

By Barak Ravid
Tags: Israel news Barack Obama Benjamin Netanyahu
U.S. President Barack Obama will host Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a meeting at the White House on July 6.

The two were scheduled to meet on June 1, but Netanyahu chose to cancel his visit to Washington after the Israel Navy's deadly raid on Turkish-flagged aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip a day earlier.

The White House on Sunday hailed Israel's easing of its land blockade of Gaza and said
Obama would discuss "additional steps" with Benjamin Netanyahu during their Washington meeting.

"We believe that the implementation of the policy announced by the government of Israel today should improve life for the people of Gaza, and we will continue to support that effort going forward," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

Prior to the originally scheduled meeting, it was expected that Netanyahu would ask Obama for clarifications about the U.S. position on the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

Review Conference participants have decided that the nuclear reactors in Dimona and Sorek should be brought under the international inspection regime.

The conclusions of its recent conference included a number of decisions that affect Israel: It called for an international conference in 2012 for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons; it called on Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and open its nuclear installations to international inspection; and it called for the appointment of a special UN envoy on nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

Obama and Netanyahu are also expected to discuss the U.S.-mediated peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Obama hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas 10 days ago at the White House, amid international criticism over Israel's raid of the Mavi Marmara and calls for it to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

One of the points that Abbas raised during the meeting is that the naval blockade imposed by Israel on the Strip should not be lifted at this stage. European diplomats said Egypt has made it clear to Israel, the U.S and the European Union that it is also opposes the lifting of the naval blockade because of the difficulty in inspecting the ships that would enter and leave the Gaza port.

Abbas told Obama that actions easing the blockade should be done with care and undertaken gradually so it will not be construed as a victory for Hamas.

The Palestinian leader also stressed that the population in the Gaza Strip must be supported, and that pressure should be brought to bear on Israel to allow more goods, humanitarian assistance and building materials for reconstruction. Abbas, however, said this added aid can be done by opening land crossings and other steps that do not include the lifting of the naval blockade.

Posted by: ANP | 06/25/2010

'Iran will not send aid ship to Gaza' Iran will not send aid ship to Gaza
By the CNN Wire Staff
June 25, 2010

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- Iran will not send a ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza as it had planned to do on Thursday, according to a report from the official news agency of Iran.
The Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Hossein Sheikholeslam, secretary-general of the International Conference for the Support of the Palestinian Intifada, as saying: "The Iranian ship carrying humanitarian aid will not go to Gaza."
IRNA said that Sheikholeslam told reporters in the northern city of Rasht that the ship had originally been scheduled to depart for Gaza on Thursday, but that its departure was postponed until Sunday because of restrictions imposed by Israel.
He added that officials then decided instead to cancel the trip altogether, shipping to Gaza the goods by other means, IRNA said.
"The Zionist regime has made helping the people of Gaza, who are under siege, a political issue and we do not wish to politicize this kind of humanitarian aid because first and foremost we want the siege of Gaza to be broken," he said, according to the news agency. "The Zionist regime has sent a letter to the U.N. saying that the presence of Iranian and Lebanese ships in the Gaza area will be considered a declaration of war on that regime and it will react to it."
He added: "In order to deprive the Zionist regime of any excuse, the aid collected for the oppressed people of Gaza will be delivered to them by other means without mentioning the name of Iran."
In a posting on the Israel Defense Forces website, the chief of the general staff said Israel has "a natural right to inspect and to prevent the flow of weapons into the Gaza Strip."
"If anyone is bothered by the situation in the Gaza Strip and wants to transfer medical supplies there, they can respect our guidelines and go through to the Ashdod port," Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Tuesday, according to the IDF. "We will inspect them, and if we can we will transfer them in."
Ashkenazi added, "It is important that we maintain this right and we cannot let the Gaza Strip turn into an Iranian port."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced this month Israel's plans to ease its blockade of Gaza, a step commended by major powers and brushed off by Palestinian leaders.
Palestinian officials said the steps were an improvement but called for the blockade to be completely lifted and the Israeli occupation ended.
Israel's announcement came three weeks after ships in Israel's naval blockade sparred on May 31 with a flotilla of aid ships heading to Gaza. Israel's military stopped the flotilla, killing nine Turkish activists on one of the ships in the incident, which drew international condemnation.
Israel said its troops were attacked with knives, metal poles and other objects on one of the boats; the boat's passengers said they were fired upon without provocation.
CNN's Shirzad Bozorgmehr contributed to this story from Tehran.

Posted by: Jan Boeykens | 06/25/2010

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