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Gaza blockade to witness notable changes, Blair says

06-23-2010 17:36 BJT

by Fares Akram, Emad Drimly

GAZA, June 22 (Xinhua) -- Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip will soon witness notable changes, Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair said Tuesday.

The Middle East Quartet, represented by the former British prime minister, is exerting intensive efforts to help ease the three-year-old Israeli tight siege, Blair talked to a workshop in Gaza through video-conference link.

Earlier in the day, Blair paid a visit to the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom crossing in southeast Gaza Strip to inspect the flow of cargo into Gaza, according to an Israel Radio report.

Blair said the new changes include expanding the list of the permitted goods into Gaza, adding the Quartet, consisting of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, are trying to persuade Israel to lift the ban on construction materials.

Last week, Israel announced it will allow all civilian products to enter Gaza. However, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the goods that can be used for dual purposes, such as cement, are restricted to the hands of international aid organizations.

Israel's new policies came under growing international criticism on its way of dealing with Gaza, whose rulers Israel wants to isolate. However, many experts say the sanctions have taken toll only on the civilians.

Israel said it bans the cement and other construction materials because the Hamas, who ruled Gaza and swore to destroy the Jewish state, could use them to build bunkers and tunnels.

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