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Palestinians divided on blockade changes

June 18, 2010 1:13 P.M. (Updated: June 20, 2010 9:08 A.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - Palestinian analysts disagreed with officials on Thursday, over the issue of Israel's cabinet decision to change the methods by which the siege on Gaza was implemented, apparently to allow in a greater number of goods including construction materials.

While officials in the PA, the Quartet and the UN all welcomed the announcement described by one analyst as an "announcement that the siege will continue," and neither side saw the move as a real solution.

The Thursday cabinet meeting, deliberating as the siege entered its fourth year, announced that an increased amount of goods would enter Gaza, including construction materials, under an EU and UN-backed plan to monitor the goods and make sure they are channeled into civilian reconstruction projects and not into the construction of "bunkers or weapons."

Crossings liaison official Raed Fattuh, who has closely monitored the goods coming into Gaza over the past four years, said he believed the increased goods would give local businesses a boost, and help stabilize the Gaza economy.

So far, he said, "there are 120 goods out of the 4,000 requested by Gaza residents and aid agencies that are allowed into the Strip."

Ministry of the Economy official Naser As-Sarraj said that already, “the Israeli side informed that stationary, kitchen ware, toys, mattresses, towels and long list of food stuffs would be permitted into Gaza." He said he was encouraged by the new items.

Analysts disagree

Writer and analyst Akram Atallah called the announcement a sign that Israel will "allow some 200 new types goods into Gaza over top of the 67 old ones, hardly putting a dent in the 4,000 some odd things needed."

Akram described the move as an "Israeli attempt to absorb world public opinion that has recently escalated against them, they are trying to gain power and international approval."

There is a difference between popular and international approval, however, Akram noted, explaining that it was popular sentiment that drove the international community to act, and if the popular voice is not satisfied, neither will the international leaders be.

"There is nothing new in the Israeli decision, except that is a formal announcement that the siege will continue under international sponsorship this time, represented by [Quartet Envoy] Tony Blair, who suggested the mechanisms," Akram said.

Writer and analyst Mustafa As-Sawaf agreed, saying the move was an attempt to "beautify the siege by allowing [into Gaza] some materials that are not that important."

As-Sawaf added that whether or not mayonnaise allowed into Gaza for the first time last week, was permitted for import, "regardless the siege is illegal.”

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