The United States and Europe welcomed Israel's announcement Monday it would allow certain construction materials into Gaza as an "important step" toward easing a four-year blockade of the coastal enclave.
"We believe the list of restricted goods for Gaza announced today will make a significant improvement in the lives of people in Gaza, while keeping weapons out of the hands of Hamas," said Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman.
"This is an important step in implementing the new policy announced by Israel two weeks ago."
He said US President Barack Obama "looks forward to discussing" the matter during his Oval Office talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.
EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement, "Today's announcement by the government of Israel is another significant step forward in the review of its policy on Gaza."
"Israel's new policy should improve the lives of the ordinary people of Gaza while addressing the legitimate security concerns of Israel," Ashton said, adding, "The details of the lists will have to be carefully examined,"
The EU official said she hoped "the complete implementation of these measures will allow for the reconstruction of Gaza and the revival of its economy."
"The movement of persons and trade between Gaza and the West Bank should remain one of the key objectives," Ashton insisted.
She continued to say that the EU was "ready to support Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the opening of land crossings," and reiterated her call for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit's immediate release.
Quartet envoy Tony Blair said Israel's measures "should have a dramatic influence on the daily lives of the people of Gaza and on the private sector."
However, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Israel's new policy was "worthless," demanding that the blockade be lifted entirely.
Israel earlier gave the go-ahead for the international community to import construction materials into the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
The government published a list of construction materials to be allowed entry into the crowded territory but only for projects approved by the Palestinian Authority and implemented and supervised by the international community.
The blockade has effectively prevented large-scale reconstruction in the Palestinian territory in the wake of Israel's devastating 22-day military offensive, which ended in January 2009.
A separate list maintains a ban on arms and ammunition imports as well as "dual-use" items Israel fears could serve military purposes, including rock drills and equipment for drawing water from excavated sites, certain fertilizers, ball bearings, diving equipment, gliders and fireworks.
Israel and Egypt cut off most access to the Gaza Strip when Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured by Hamas and other terrorists during a cross-border raid in June 2006.
The closure was tightened further the following year when the Islamist group, which has fired thousands of rockets and mortar rounds into Israel, seized power in Gaza.
AP contributed to the report
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