Gaza blockade eased, but Blair hopes dashed

By Ian Dunt

The Israeli government has eased the land blockade on Gaza’s 1.4 million residents, but fallen far short of Tony Blair’s hopes for reform.

After a two-day security cabinet meeting, Israel said it would expand the number of products allowed into Gaza, including construction materials.

The construction materials are particularly important, because they allow Gazans to rebuild homes and businesses destroyed under Israeli bombardment.

But the plans falls far short of Mr Blair’s plans, which would have seen a list of allowed items replaced by a list of restricted items – thereby changing the assumptions of the blockade so that all items were allowed in unless specifically mentioned.

The easing only includes land borders and therefore retains restriction on boats arriving to offer aid to Gazans. The reforms only took place because of the crescendo of international condemnation which followed the Israeli attack on a flotilla of aid ships travelling to Gaza, in which nine Turkish nationals were shot by Israeli Defence Forces.

The fact the meeting took two days suggests there is still considerable scepticism among senior Israel figures at even a modest lifting of the blockade.

The partial lifting is a victory of sorts for Britain, which lobbied for an end to the blockade with France, Spain and Italy in the wake of the flotilla raid.

The blockade began when Hamas, which does not recognise Israel, won the election in Gaza in 2007.