Blair says Gaza blockade counterproductive, but hard to change because of Israeli objectionsBy Mark Lavie, AP
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Blair: blockade counterproductive but hard to ease
JERUSALEM — The international Mideast envoy says the 3-year blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza has been counterproductive but that the policy is difficult to change because of strong Israeli objections.
Envoy Tony Blair also said in an interview Wednesday that the raid earlier this week on a Gaza-bound ship was a reminder that Gaza cannot be ignored as the West tries to broker a peace deal between Israel and Hamas’ moderate rivals in the West Bank.
Blair said the international community’s demand to allow more goods into Gaza has been “a matter of strong disagreement with Israel.” Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after Hamas violently seized power in Gaza in 2007, and only allow in basic humanitarian supplies.
Blair said many more goods must be allowed in.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s blockade of Gaza is at the center of the crisis following the bloody raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla carrying aid supplies and pro-Palestinian activists. Here are some aspects of the blockade:
—When: Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after the Islamic militant Hamas violently overran the Gaza Strip in June 2007.
—Why: Israel considers Hamas a terror group responsible for firing thousands of rockets at Israel and carrying out dozens of suicide terror attacks. Egypt is concerned that Hamas’ strict Islamic message could boost Muslim radicals in Egypt.
—Goal: Keeping weaponry away from Hamas. Also, Israel expected that hardship caused by the blockade would weaken support for Hamas among the people of Gaza.
—What’s allowed in: Israel transfers an average of 15,000 tons of humanitarian supplies a week into Gaza, including basic food, clothing, footwear and limited quantities of building supplies.
—What’s banned: Weapons and explosives; cement, iron and steel, fertilizer and other products Israel believes Hamas could use to strengthen its fortifications or make explosives; items considered “luxuries.”
—Results: Hamas has institutionalized a system of smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border to bring in weapons, explosives, some building materials and consumer products. Support for Hamas has not lessened, as Gazans blame Israel for hardships. International demands that Israel lift the blockade were increasing even before the flotilla raid.