All foods allowed into Gaza, says official

An Israeli military official has this afternoon said that all foods would be freely let in to Gaza, effective immediately.

Israel agreed today to ease its land blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, hoping to quell growing international criticism after a deadly sea raid.

Israel had previously allowed a narrow and constantly changing list of authorised food items.

But there was no mention of lifting or easing bans on exports or the import of raw materials that would be crucial to galvanising the territory’s battered economy. And the statement contained no specifics on what else would be allowed into Gaza.

The European Union cautiously welcomed the easing of restrictions.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Cristina Galach, spokeswoman for the bloc’s Spanish presidency.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said officials want to see how the Israeli decision is carried out. “The detail is what matters,” she said.

Israel must “make sure that many, many more goods can get into Gaza to enable people to reconstruct their homes, to build schools, to place infrastructure, and also enable people to get on with ordinary lives”, she said.

UN spokesman Chris Gunness said the blockade has prevented the United Nations from bringing in construction materials needed to carry out an internationally approved plan to rebuild thousands of homes and other buildings Israel damaged or destroyed in last year’s war in Gaza.

The closure has also shuttered hundreds of factories, put tens of thousands of people out of work and brought the territory’s fragile economy to a standstill, mainly hurting ordinary Gazans.

EU officials will discuss the possibility of helping reopen Gaza’s border crossings, Ms Ashton added.

The EU helped monitor Gaza’s southern border with Egypt until Hamas took power in 2007.

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