Hague and Blair share Gaza relief

By Alex Stevenson

Israel’s decision to ease its blockade of the Gaza Strip prompted relieved statements from foreign secretary William Hague and Quartet envoy Tony Blair last night.

All goods except weapons and those used to make them will be allowed in and out of the Palestinian territory, allowing swathes of humanitarian aid blocked for months to help Gazans.

It follows international condemnation after nine activists were killed by Israel Defence forces aboard an aid ship as they attempted to bring assistance by sea last month.

Previously all items had been barred from entering Gaza except those on a permitted list. Now only a prohibited list applies.

Mr Hague and Mr Blair discussed the situation by telephone last night, the foreign secretary said.

“We both agreed that this marks an important step in the right direction,” he commented.

“These changes must now be implemented swiftly to allow the necessary movement of people, aid and goods in and out of Gaza, and revive Gaza’s economy, while continuing to meet Israel’s legitimate security concerns.

“Israel’s long-term interests lie in creating an environment where Gaza’s economy can flourish. The test now is how the new policy will be carried out.”

The full reopening of the Karni crossing is now being sought by the Foreign Office, which would allow the free flow of aid, commercial and reconstruction supplies needed.

Mr Blair, who represents the EU, UN, Russia and the US, told Channel 4 News the Israeli government had also committed to facilitating UN projects rebuilding the territory.

“We’ve got to make sure what has been promised is actually done,” he said.

“But I hope very soon very quickly this will make a significant difference. I expect within the next couple of weeks we should virtually double the amount of material going into Gaza.”