Israel OKs Plan to Relax Gaza Blockade

Israel's security cabinet decided today to ease the blockade of Gaza.

ByABC News
June 17, 2010, 5:38 AM

JERUSALEM, June 17, 2010 -- Israel's security cabinet today approved a plan to ease its controversial blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The move comes amid mounting international pressure following Israel's deadly naval raid on a Turkish backed aid flotilla in which nine Turkish activists were killed on May 31.

Palestinian sources confirmed to ABC News today that Israeli officials told them all restrictions on the importing of food would be lifted on June 22. Restrictions on the supply of toys, school supplies, glass, kitchen utensils, mattresses and towels would also be lifted.

A statement released by the Israeli government said, "It was agreed to liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza and expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision."

In response to Hamas's armed takeover of Gaza, Israel in 2007 imposed tough economic sanctions on the Gaza Strip. The sanctions have been the subject of increasing international criticism in recent weeks.

In Gaza, there is a significant shortage of building materials such as cement and steel that are needed to rebuild homes destroyed during Israel's military offensive against Hamas at the end of 2008.

Israel has said it fears such supplies would be used by Hamas to strenghten its military. Today's decision suggests an increased amount of construction materials will be allowed into Gaza but only for building projects supervised by the United Nations.

Today's decision does not affect Israel's naval blockade of Gaza. The anticipated increase in supplies will be transferred through Israeli controlled land crossings.

Other attempts to break the naval blockade are underway including an Iranian plan to send two ships to Gaza. Israel has said all such attempts will be confronted.