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Erekat slams Israeli 'claim' of relaxed Gaza siege

June 17, 2010 1:15 P.M. (Updated: June 18, 2010 12:49 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erakat called the Israeli cabinet decision to ease Gaza restrictions "not sufficient," in a statement released moments after the decision was announced.

"With this decision, Israel attempts to make it appear that it has eased its four-year blockade and its even longer-standing access and movement restrictions imposed on the population of Gaza. In reality, the siege of the Gaza Strip, illegally imposed on Palestinians continues unabated," the statement read.

Reports indicated that Israel had decided to change the "method" of the siege, in an apparent attempt to allow aid and goods to reach more civilians. The decision reflects changes made already in the two weeks between the decision and Israel's attack on a flotilla of aid ships that resulted in the death of at least nine passengers and sparked the international call for an end to the closure.

Over the two weeks, however, UN officials noted an increase in the variety of goods permitted into Gaza, but an overall decrease in the amount of goods delivered. Residents and Hamas officials called the sudden okay for the delivery of mayonnaise "a joke," while INGOs called for Israel to allow unlimited reconstruction goods and factory supplies into the Strip, in an effort to ensure the economy does not totally collapse. Exports, reports from the ICRC and Oxfam said, would be essential.

"Israel has used a so-called 'white list' of only 114 items allowed into the Gaza Strip. Palestinian basic needs require at least 8,000 basic items that continue to be prohibited. These include essential materials for rebuilding and for waste-water treatment for the most basic living standards," Erekat said.

The official, who will meet with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell on Friday, called on the international community "to take immediate and effective actions to conclusively end the siege on the Gaza Strip, and end the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip."

He concluded, "Either Israel lifts the siege completely or it continues to violate international law and basic morality."
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