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Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Israel to ‘consider’ US offer on settlement freeze

In Uncategorized on November 14, 2010 at 4:24 am

Israel to purchase US-built F-35 strike fighters

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2010 at 11:23 am

Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday approved the purchase of a fleet of US-built F-35 strike fighters in a move set to ramp up the capabilities of the Israeli Air Force.


The minister “approved in principle” a recommendation by the military to purchase the F-35 or Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), a statement from his office said.


Israel is initially expected to buy 20 of the aircraft in a deal worth an estimated 2.75 billion dollars, the top-selling Yediot Aharonot daily said in several reports published last week.


Should the deal be approved by the security cabinet, it will be the most expensive weapons deal ever signed by the Jewish state, it said.


“The F-35 is the fighter plane of the future which will give the air force better short-range and long-range capabilities which will help state security,” Barak said in the statement.


Delivery of the first F-35s, which are still not yet operational, is expected only in 2015, the paper said.


The price includes the cost of setting up a logistical infrastructure in Israel to allow local firms to manufacture spare parts for it.


Udi Shani, defence ministry director general, said a key element of the deal was an agreement which would allow Israeli industries to get involved in the assembly of the plane and the manufacture of spares.


“The considerations for approving the deal were not just about the operational abilities of the plane but the agreements for involving Israeli industries in the assembly of the plane,” the ministry quoted him as saying.


Acquisition of the F-35, which is made by US aerospace and defence giant Lockheed Martin, will give Israel access to stealth technology that will provide it with air superiority over enemy anti-aircraft defences.

Source: SGGP

Israel rejects ‘preconditions’ for direct peace talks

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2010 at 11:21 am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday ruled out any “preconditions” ahead of an expected invitation to direct peace talks with the Palestinians that may be based on a complete settlement halt.


His remarks during a landmark visit to Greece came as Washington appeared to be closing in on the relaunch of direct talks after months of shuttle diplomacy that have failed to convince the Palestinians to enter face-to-face talks.


“I hope to resume direct talks with the Palestinians without preconditions,” Netanyahu said in Athens.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seen here addressing the press in Athens, ruled out any preconditions ahead of an expected invitation to direct peace talks with the Palestinians that may be based on a complete settlement halt

Earlier an official speaking on condition of anonymity had told AFP in Jerusalem “Israel is ready to start direct negotiations immediately, but without any preconditions.”


“The Palestinians, who have lost valuable time by refusing to revive these direct contacts, will present all the topics they want to discuss at the negotiating table,” added the official.


The diplomatic Quartet — European Union, Russia, United Nations and United States — was expected in the coming days to issue a statement inviting both sides to resume direct talks suspended since 2008.


The Palestinians said it would be modelled on a Quartet statement issued in Moscow in March that called on Israel to halt settlement construction and for the direct talks to lead to a final peace deal in two years.


Israeli media reported a forum of seven top cabinet members had decided to reject the Quartet statement, which could call on Israel to renew a limited 10-month West Bank settlement freeze, set to expire in September.


“The Quartet declaration should allow the Palestinians to descend the tree they have climbed by refusing negotiations, but it must not be binding on Israel,” Israeli media outlets quoted an unnamed minister as saying.


The minister said Israel would reject the appeal from the Quartet but accept a parallel invitation issued by Washington that would be “more balanced.”


Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat charged that Netanyahu’s right-wing government was not serious about peace.


“The announcement by the Israeli government rejecting the statement of the international Quartet before it is even issued shows that Israel is persisting in its rejection of a serious peace process,” Erakat told AFP.


“(This) clearly proves that this government has other interests besides peace and stability in the region,” he added.


Erakat also rejected Israel’s decision on Sunday to deploy 23 caravans in eight West Bank settlements to serve as classrooms, saying it was “placing additional obstacles” in the way of US efforts to revive the peace process.


Netanyahu arrived in Greece on Monday, the first Israeli prime minister to visit a country that has traditionally been pro-Arab and did not recognise Israel’s existence until 1991.


Israel has repeatedly called for direct talks with the Palestinians but has refused to completely halt settlement activity, which it considers a “precondition,” but which the Palestinians say was part of previous agreements.


The presence of some 500,000 Israelis in more than 120 settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank, including mostly-Arab east Jerusalem, has been one of the most contentious issues in the decades-old conflict.


The Palestinians rejected the partial freeze on settlements as insufficient because it did not include east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967 and annexed to its capital in a move not recognised by the international community.

The Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

US envoy George Mitchell has been shuttling between the two sides for months to relaunch direct peace talks. In May Israel and the Palestinians began indirect US-brokered negotiations.

The last round of direct talks collapsed when Israel launched a devastating three-week offensive in Gaza in December 2008 in a bid to halt rocket fire from the enclave ruled by the militant Hamas movement.

Source: SGGP

Israel rejects ‘preconditions’ for direct peace talks

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli officials on Monday rejected any “preconditions” ahead of an expected international invitation to direct peace talks with the Palestinians that would call for a complete settlement freeze.


Their remarks came as Washington appeared to be closing in on the relaunch of direct negotiations after months of shuttle diplomacy that have thus far failed to convince the Palestinians to enter face-to-face talks.

AFP/File – A man carries an injured child into Al-Shifa hospital following Israeli air strikes in Gaza City in July

“Israel is ready to start direct negotiations immediately, but without any preconditions,” an Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity.


“The Palestinians, who have lost valuable time by refusing to revive these direct contacts, will present all the topics they want to discuss at the negotiating table,” he added.


The diplomatic Quartet — comprised of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia — was expected to issue a statement inviting both sides to relaunch direct talks which were suspended in late 2008.


The Palestinians have said it will be modelled on a Quartet statement issued in Moscow in March that called on Israel to halt settlement construction and for the direct talks to lead to a final peace deal in two years.


They have resisted months of US pressure to relaunch the talks, arguing that Israel’s rightwing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not serious about withdrawing from lands occupied by Israel in 1967.


Israeli media reported that a forum of seven top cabinet members have decided to reject the Quartet statement, which may call on Israel to extend a limited West Bank settlement freeze, set to expire in September, for another 10 months.


“The Quartet declaration should allow the Palestinians to descend the tree they have climbed by refusing negotiations, but it must not be binding on Israel,” several Israeli media outlets quoted an unnamed minister as saying.


The minister was quoted as saying that Netanyahu’s government would reject the appeal from the Quartet but accept a parallel invitation issued by Washington that would be “more balanced.”


Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat charged that Netanyahu’s government was not serious about peace.


“The announcement by the Israeli government rejecting the statement of the international Quartet before it is even issued shows that Israel is persisting in its rejection of a serious peace process,” Erakat told AFP.


“(This) clearly proves that this government has other interests besides peace and stability in the region,” he added.


Erakat also rejected Israel’s decision on Sunday to deploy 23 caravans in eight West Bank settlements to serve as classrooms, saying it was “placing additional obstacles” in the way of US efforts to revive the peace process.


Israel has repeatedly called for direct talks but has refused to completely halt settlement activity, which it considers a “precondition,” but which the Palestinians say was part of previous agreements.


The presence of some 500,000 Israelis in more than 120 settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem, has been one of the most contentious issues in the decades-old conflict.


The Palestinians rejected the partial freeze on settlements as insufficient because it did not include mostly-Arab east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967 and annexed to its capital in a move not recognised by the international community.


The Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.


The United States has been struggling for the past 18 months to relaunch the peace process, viewing it as a key foreign policy goal that would help improve relations with the Muslim world.


The two sides began indirect US-brokered talks in May, after the last round of direct talks collapsed when Israel launched a devastating three-week offensive in Gaza in December 2008 in a bid to halt rocket fire from the enclave ruled by the militant Hamas movement.


Hamas, which is sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state, has warned Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas against holding any negotiations with Israel, including in a weekend statement co-signed by 10 other hardline groups based in Syria.

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Source: SGGP

Flotilla probe will show Israel acted lawfully: Netanyahu

In Uncategorized on August 9, 2010 at 11:20 am

JERUSALEM, Aug 9, 2010 (AFP) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Monday that Israel acted lawfully in a commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla which killed nine activists, in testimony before an Israeli panel.


“I am convinced that at the end of your investigation, it will become clear that the state of Israel and the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) acted in accordance with international law,” Netanyahu told members of the Tirkel Commission as he began testifying about the raid.


“I am the first one to appear before this honorable commission. Many others will appear after me, and I believe that all the details will become clear and you will get to the root of the truth,” he said.


The Israeli leader looked at ease as he entered the room shortly after 9:00 am (0600 GMT), smiling at the hoards of journalists and members of the public waiting to hear his sworn testimony.


After he took his seat, facing the panel bench with his back to the audience, the committee members made their way into the auditorium.


Opening the session, which was expected to last into the afternoon, committee chairman Yaakov Tirkel said some of Netanyahu’s testimony would be given verbally and some would be delivered in written form.


“As much as possible, the committee will try to let the prime minister give his testimony verbally or in written form,” he said.


Some of the session was expected to take place behind closed doors.


Netanyahu is the first of three top officials to give sworn testimony about the May 31 incident in which naval commandos stormed six aid ships trying to run the blockade on Gaza, killing nine activists and wounding scores of others.

(AFP file) A picture shows an undated image taken from the Free Gaza Movement website on May 28, 2010 of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara taking part in the “Freedom Flotilla” headed to the Gaza Strip.

The bloody raid caused a diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey and sparked global calls for an inquiry — prompting Netanyahu’s government to set up the Tirkel Commission to look into the legality of the operation.


Israel says its commandos resorted to force only after they were attacked when they rappelled onto the deck of the Turkish passenger ferry Mavi Marmara. But the activists on board say troops opened fire as soon as they landed.


Netanyahu was not likely to face any awkward questions on Monday as he testified before the five panel members, two foreign observers and hundreds of members of the press and public.


When the committee was created in June, Netanyahu’s office said its mandate was to examine the international legality of Israel’s naval blockade and of actions taken to enforce it, as well as the actions of those who organised and took part in the flotilla.


Panel members are not authorised probe the decision-making process which led up to the operation, nor do they have the authority to question troops involved in storming the boats.


Defence Minister Ehud Barak will take the stand on Tuesday, followed by Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on Wednesday, with both likely to be quizzed over the operational aspects of boarding the ships.


Ashkenazi will be the only serving member of the military to testify before the committee.


The five-man panel, headed by Tirkel, a retired judge, began investigating the raid at the end of June, and its deliberations are being monitored by two international observers.


The creation of the panel, its members and its mandate were all backed by Israel’s cabinet. Its findings will be presented to the government, which has already blamed the bloodshed on the activists.


The Israeli military has already completed its own inquiry into the pre-dawn raid and concluded that although mistakes were made at a “relatively senior” level, the use of live fire was justified.


Israel has repeatedly said it has the right to stop vessels from reaching the Gaza Strip since they could be carrying weapons for the Islamist Hamas rulers of the enclave. Hamas is sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state.


Last week UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon named his own panel to look into the botched raid, which is set to begin work on Tuesday and includes representatives from Israel and Turkey.


The UN Human Rights Council is also carrying out an inquiry, as is Turkey which is reportedly looking to make a criminal case against Netanyahu, Barak and Ashkenazi, charging them with piracy and murder.

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Source: SGGP

Iran blames West, Israel for bombings

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2010 at 4:49 pm

A wounded Iranian woman rests at a hospital in the southeastern city of Zahedan. AFP

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran blamed the West and Israel on Saturday for twin suicide bombings which killed at least 27 people, despite condemnation of the attack by the European Union, United Nations and United States.


Iranian police, meanwhile, arrested 40 people for “creating disturbances” in the southeastern city of Zahedan where the bombers struck on Thursday, the Mehr news agency reported.


“This blind terrorist act was carried out by the mercenaries of the world arrogance (the Western powers),” state television’s website quoted Deputy Interior Minister Ali Abdollahi as saying.


“The agents of this crime were trained and equipped beyond our borders and then came into Iran,” Abdollahi said.


Sunni militant group Jundallah has said it carried out the bombings which targeted members of the elite Revolutionary Guards at a Shiite mosque in Zahedan, capital of the restive province of Sistan-Baluchestan.


It said the attacks were to avenge the execution of their leader Abdolmalek Rigi on June 20.


Parliament speaker Ali Larijani directly accused the United States for the bombings.


“Today, the country is mourning the tragic explosion in Zahedan which was done with the backing of Americans. Americans can’t come up with any excuse since they are connected with the Rigi group,” he said, quoted on the website.


Crowds of mourners gathered in Zahedan on Saturday for a mass funeral for the bombings’ victims. They assembled outside the city’s Jamia mosque where the bombers struck for a procession to the main cemetery.


“Those who committed these terrorist acts are neither Shiite nor Sunni,” read one banner carried by the mourners, while crowds chanted: “Death to terrorists,” the official IRNA news agency reported.


Tehran has long charged that Washington has provided support to the Rigi group as part of efforts to destabilise the Islamic regime by fomenting unrest among ethnic minorities in sensitive border areas.


But US President Barack Obama has condemned the “outrageous terrorist attacks,” while UN chief Ban Ki-moon blasted a “senseless act of terrorism” and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton condemned “these cowardly terrorist attacks.”


Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar pointed the finger at Israel, Iran’s arch-foe.


“The terrorist act by the Zionists had a number of objectives, including creating division between Shiites and Sunnis,” the ISNA news agency quoted Najjar as saying.


He said Iran’s security and intelligence services now had “a grip on the situation.”


But MP Abbas Ali Noora from Sistan-Baluchestan resigned in protest at the handling of security in the province, saying such an attack was expected after the execution of Rigi.


“The culture of this region is of revenge. After Rigi’s execution, we had warned that this group would retaliate,” he told ILNA news agency. “We expected such retaliatory actions” on days linked to Shiite religious events.


Noora was the second lawmaker from the region to resign, following the example of Zahedan parliamentarian Hossein Ali Shahriari who stepped down shortly after the attack.


Thursday’s bombing came as Shiite worshippers were celebrating the birthday of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.


In a message to the people of Sistan-Baluchestan, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on “Sunni and Shiite Muslims to be patient and to maintain unity,” the Fars news agency reported.


Jundallah claims it is fighting for the rights of Baluchis who make up a significant proportion of the population of Sistan-Baluchestan province and who, unlike Iran’s Shiite majority, mainly follow the Sunni branch of Islam.


The province borders Afghanistan and Pakistan and analysts says Jundallah has exploited the unrest in the region to find safe haven on the frontier.

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Source: SGGP

Turkey to cut ties unless Israel apologises over Gaza raid

In Uncategorized on July 5, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Turkey warned Israel Monday it will cut ties unless it gets an apology for a deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid ships, but the Jewish state said it will never say sorry for defending itself.

A Turkish demonstrator burns an Israeli flag during a protest in Istanbul

Ankara had already closed its airspace to all Israeli military aircraft in reaction to the May 31 bloodshed on a Turkish ship in which nine Turks were killed, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the daily Hurriyet.


The Israelis had three options, Davutoglu said in remarks published Monday.


“Either they apologise, or accept an international (inquiry) commission and its report, or relations will be broken,” he said.


Turkey has called for an international probe into Israel’s interception of the flotilla, but Davutoglu said Ankara would not reject Israel’s own inquiry if it resulted in an apology and compensation of the victims’ families, according to Hurriyet.


“If their own commission concludes that the raid was unjust and if they apologise, that will be sufficient,” he said, although he insisted on compensation.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had already ruled out any apology on Friday and a senior government official said on Monday after Davutoglu’s remarks that Israel would never say sorry for defending itself.


“Israel will never apologise for defending its citizens,” the official told AFP, echoing Netanyahu’s remarks.


“Of course, we regret the loss of life but it was not the Israeli side that initiated the violence,” the official said.


Foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor slammed Turkey’s harsh rhetoric.


“When you want an apology, you don’t use threats or ultimatums,” Palmor told AFP. “Everything leads us to believe that Turkey has another agenda in mind.”


Davutoglu said he had presented Turkey’s position during talks in Brussels on Wednesday with Israeli Trade Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer, in the first high-level contact since the crisis erupted.


“We will not wait for eternity for an Israeli answer,” he said.


“If they do not make any move (to meet Turkey’s expectations), the process of isolating Israel will continue,” he added.


Davutoglu also said the decision to close Turkey’s airspace to Israeli military aircraft “was not taken for only one or two airplanes,” hinting the sanction could be extended to civilian flights as well.


“There is no decision yet for the airspace ban to cover civilian flights. It will be reviewed according to developments,” he told a Hurriyet correspondent while flying back from a visit to Kyrgyzstan.


Last week, Turkey said it had denied overflight permission to two Israeli military planes, but authorities said it was not a generalised ban.


The boarding by Israeli marines of the Mavi Marmara ferry, one of a number of boats trying to take aid to the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, killed eight Turks and a dual US-Turkish citizen.


The attack prompted Ankara to recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv and cancel three planned joint military exercises.


Relations between the one-time allies were already strained over Israel’s devastating invasion of Gaza last year, which triggered vehement Turkish criticism.


The Islamist-rooted government in Ankara has also irked the Jewish state with its close contacts with Iran and for hosting in 2006 the leader of Hamas, the radical Palestinian group controlling Gaza.


Davutoglu denied reports he and Ben Eliezer met under US pressure.


“We did not meet on the prompting of the United States,” he told Hurriyet, adding that US President Barack Obama had been told of the talks when he met Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Toronto in late June.


Washington had said earlier it was working to heal the rift between its two main allies in the Middle East, alarmed also over concerns that Erdogan’s government is taking Turkey, NATO’s sole mainly Muslim member, away from the West.


Turkish-Israeli ties had flourished for years after the two countries signed a military cooperation accord in 1996.

Source: SGGP

Turkey, Israel hold secret talks to mend ties: official

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2010 at 2:25 pm

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkish and Israeli ministers met secretly in Brussels to seek ways of mending fences amid a deep crisis over a deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid ships last month, a Turkish official said Thursday.


Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Israeli Trade Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer met Wednesday in Brussels, where Davutoglu was on a visit to discuss his country’s bid to join the European Union.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu pictured on June 30, 2010 (AFP)

The talks “took place yesterday in Brussels upon a request by Israel,” the official who declined to be named told AFP.


“We had already conveyed a note to Israel explaining our expectations from them… Those expectations were repeated at the meeting,” the official said.


It was the first bilateral meeting on a ministerial level since relations between the once-close allies plunged into deep crisis on May 31 when Israeli commandos raided a Turkish ship leading an aid flotilla to the Gaza Strip.


The United States has expressed concern over the deteriorating ties between the two countries.


Eight Turks and a dual US-Turkish citizen were killed in the operation, which shattered bilateral ties, already strained since Israel’s devastating war on Gaza last year


Ankara immediately recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and cancelled three planned joint military exercises. It also denied permission twice to Israeli military aircraft to use its air space.


Senior Turkish officials have said Turkey expects Israel to apologise for the bloodshed, compensate the victims’ families, agree to an international inquiry and release three Turkish vessels seized in the operation.


Ankara also wants the crippling blockade of Gaza to be lifted.


Ben Eliezer is known as an advocate of good ties with Turkey. He was the first Israeli minister to visit Ankara last year after the Jewish state’s war on Gaza triggered vehement Turkish criticism.


But his talks with Davutoglu in Brussels were concealed from the Israeli foreign ministry, infuriating the hawkish and outspoken minister, Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Channel Two reported.


While not mentioning Ben Eliezer or Davutoglu by name, Lieberman said talks had taken place without his knowledge or approval.


“The foreign minister takes a very serious view of the fact that this occurred without informing the foreign ministry,” his office said in a statement late Wednesday.


“This is an insult to the norms of accepted behaviour and a heavy blow to the confidence between the foreign minister and the prime minister,” it said.


A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he had approved a request from Ben Eliezer to hold an unofficial meeting with a “Turkish personality” and the failure to coordinate with the foreign ministry had been due to “technical reasons.”


Turkey’s NTV news channel said the meeting took place in a hotel suite and lasted more than two hours.


It was kept secret also from Turkey’s chief EU negotiator Egemen Bagis and Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker, who were in Brussels with the foreign minister, the report said.


Davutoglu and Ben Eliezer discussed ways of repairing bilateral ties, with the Turkish minister insisting Israel must apologise over the deadly raid on the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara, it said.


The two agreed to keep the meeting secret, share their discussions with their prime ministers and meet again secretly on a future date, it added.

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Source: SGGP

Israel to allow more ‘civilian’ goods into Gaza

In Uncategorized on June 21, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Israel announced it will allow all strictly “civilian” goods into Gaza while preventing certain weapons and dual-use items from entering the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.


The new policy is a response to mounting calls to ease Israel’s four-year siege on the coastal enclave after Israeli forces killed nine activists during a May 31 raid on a flotilla of aid ships attempting to run the blockade.


“The Israeli government has today taken additional steps to further enable the flow of civilian goods to the civilian population of the Gaza Strip,” said government spokesman Mark Regev.


“From now on, there is a green light approval for all goods to enter Gaza except for military items and materials that can strengthen Hamas’s military machine,” he said.

Palestinian children demonstrate to demand the opening of the crossings and the ending of the siege on the Gaza Strip in Gaza City on June 20, 2010.

The United States welcomed the announcement, saying it strongly backs Israel’s plans to ease the blockade and believes it will greatly improve living conditions in the impoverished enclave.


“We believe that the implementation of the policy announced by the government of Israel today should improve life for the people of Gaza,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.


“We urge all those wishing to deliver goods to do so through established channels so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via land crossings into Gaza,” Gibbs said.


“There is no need for unnecessary confrontations, and we call on all parties to act responsibly in meeting the needs of the people of Gaza.”


The announcement came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair, who said in an interview on CNN: ” I hope in the next couple weeks they’ll probably double the stuff coming into Gaza.”


Israel will soon publish a list of banned items including “only weapons, material used in combat and problematic dual-use items. All goods not on the list will be allowed into Gaza,” said a government statement.


It will also allow for the “expanded entry of dual-use building material” for projects authorised by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority with “international oversight.”


Authorities plan to expand the operations of land crossings from Israel into Gaza that are currently open and to reopen other terminals if “security demands” are met.


The new plan also aims to “streamline the entrance and exit policy for humanitarian and medical cases.”


Egypt, which has largely kept its own Rafah crossing with Gaza closed since 2006, earlier this month opened it for students, patients, visa-holders, and additional humanitarian aid. Related article: Germany blasts minister’s blocked entry to Gaza


The announcement came ahead of a planned July 6 meeting in Washington between Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama, who has called the humanitarian situation in Gaza “unsustainable.”


The entry of increasing amounts of construction materials for UN projects could allow for more desperately needed reconstruction after Israel’s devastating 22-day offensive launched in December 2008 to halt rocket attacks.


Currently thousands of products — some as banal as toilet paper and ginger — are listed by Israel as constituting a “security” risk and prevented from reaching the territory’s 1.5 million residents.


The list also includes construction materials, such as metal pipes and cement, which Israel fears could be used for building rockets and constructing underground bunkers and tunnels.

Israeli authorities had already expanded the list of permitted goods in recent weeks, allowing in snack foods, condiments and other household items.

Until now most such goods have been brought into Gaza through smuggling tunnels beneath the border with Egypt and sold at inflated prices, while Gaza’s own factories have almost completely shut down.

The border closures came under renewed criticism after Israel’s deadly commando raid on ships trying to run the blockade, in which nine Turkish activists were shot dead.

Israel has argued the closures — imposed when one of its soldiers was seized by Gaza militants in a deadly June 2006 raid and tightened a year later when Hamas took over — are needed to contain the Islamist movement.

Source: SGGP

Israel approves plan to ease Gaza blockade

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 at 4:30 am

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel on Thursday approved a plan to ease its blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip following weeks of international pressure, but provided few details on what new goods would be allowed in.


The security cabinet’s decision came in the wake of mounting international calls to ease the four-year blockade of the impoverished Palestinian territory in the wake of a deadly raid on a fleet of aid ships on May 31.

United Nations trucks carry supplies into Rafah town after crossing the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip on June 16. AFP

Under the plan, Israel would “liberalise the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza (and) expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision,” the government said in a statement.


But it also stressed that Israel would “continue existing security procedures to prevent the inflow of weapons and war materiel.”


Hamas swiftly rejected the plan, which senior leader Ismail Radwan dismissed as an attempt to “relieve the pressure” following the flotilla incident.


“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,” he told AFP.


The plan is reportedly based on understandings reached in recent days by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair that call for switching from a list of allowed items to a list of banned goods.


It would also allow the entry of more building materials for UN-sponsored construction projects.


Israel was reportedly considering a plan to station EU and Palestinian Authority inspectors at the border to inspect incoming goods, but that proposal did not appear to be included in Thursday’s decision.


Currently thousands of products — some as banal as toilet paper and ginger — are listed by Israel as constituting a “security” risk and prevented from reaching Gaza.


The list also includes construction materials, like metal pipes and cement, which Israel fears could be used for building makeshift rockets and constructing underground bunkers and tunnels.


On Wednesday, Israel allowed eight trucks loaded with kitchen equipment to enter Gaza for the first time since 2006, following recent decisions to allow in snack foods and other household items that were previously banned.


Blair had earlier this week told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that the plan would “allow us to keep weapons and weapon materials out of Gaza, but on the other hand to help the Palestinian population there.”


Blair had negotiated on behalf of the Middle East peace Quartet consisting of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.


He said the ultimate aim was to eradicate the need for smuggling through a network of tunnels running under Gaza’s border with Egypt, through which thousands of goods are brought daily and sold at inflated prices.


Netanyahu has insisted, however, that Israel’s naval blockade remain in place — a measure he says is crucial to prevent Gaza from “turning into an Iranian port” through which arms would flow freely.


Israel has faced mounting calls to lift the siege following its deadly raid on an aid flotilla trying to run the blockade, in which nine Turkish activists were shot dead by navy seals.


It has argued that the closures — imposed when an Israeli soldier was seized by Gaza militants in a deadly June 2006 raid and tightened a year later when Hamas took over — are needed to contain the Islamist movement.


In the cabinet decision Israel said it “expects the international community to work toward the immediate release of Gilad Shalit,” now 23 years old, who is believed to be held by Hamas at a secret location in Gaza.

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Source: SGGP