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Coca Cola six-pack in Rafah Crossing
Photo: AFP
Rafah crossing
Photo: AP
Israel allows some once-banned products into Gaza
Soda, juice, spices, cookies, sweets and more allowed into Strip, according to Palestinian liaison official

Israeli and Palestinian officials said Wednesday that Israel has allowed some formerly banned food items into the Gaza Strip after widespread international criticism of its three-year-old blockade.

 

Palestinian liaison official Raed Fattouh said Israel has lifted the ban on soda, juice, jam, spices, shaving cream, chips, cookies and sweets. He said Wednesday some products have already entered Gaza.

 

"We want Israel to lift the ban on textile, clothes, office equipment, paper products and school equipment," he said, "But mostly we want (Israel) to allow the transfer of cement and iron, because these are the really essential materials.

 

Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the "forum of seven ministers" discussed the repercussions of the flotilla raid and possible concessions to Gaza, but an official announcement has yet to be issued.

 

 

Israel imposed the blockade after militant Hamas seized control of Gaza. It's been under pressure to ease the embargo following a deadly clash last week with pro-Palestinian activists on board a flotilla trying to breach the blockade.

 

Israeli officials, speaking on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement, say the move is meant to defuse pressure for an international investigation of the raid.

 

Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip denied the reports, claiming Israel's statements were meant to cover up for the "crimes of the siege." They said no change has been felt on the ground.

 

Earlier this week the campaign for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit called on the government not to allow goods into Gaza, claiming that it would remove the matter from public debate.

 

Shimshon Libman, who heads the campaign, said that "it is unacceptable for Israel to allow massive amounts of goods into Gaza while Gilad Shalit rots away in Hamas' basement". Libman added that the siege on Gaza is also a method of pressuring Hamas to release the soldier.

 

After three years of cooperating in the Israeli blockade of Gaza, Egypt said Monday that it will leave its border with the Palestinian territory open indefinitely for humanitarian aid and restricted travel.

 

The move restores a link to the outside world for at least some of Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinians. It also appeared calculated to defuse anger in the Arab and Muslim world over Egypt's role in maintaining the blockade and to show that Egypt, too, is now pressing Israel to open at least its land crossings with Gaza.

 

"Egypt is the one that broke the blockade," Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said. "We are not going to let the occupying power escape from its responsibilities."

 

Ahiya Raved, Roee Nahmias contributed to this report

 

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