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OPT: Israel eases blockade of cargo to Hamas-ruled Gaza

News and Press Release
Originally published
JERUSALEM, June 21 (Reuters) - Israel eased its cargo blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Thursday, saying that humanitarian aid could be allowed through and other goods redirected to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Israel, the transit point for imports to Gaza, ordered its customs agents to hold back shipments after Hamas gunmen seized control of the enclave. That stoked international concern that many Gazans, already poor, could eventually starve.

Issuing new orders, Israel's Customs Authority said that medical equipment, food and other vital goods would be released if its importers proved they were needed for humanitarian aims.

"In addition, a release can be filed under the name of a Gaza Strip importer if the cargo is immediately transferred to storage or shops in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank)," customs official Reuven Meltzer said in a letter obtained by Reuters.

Israel wants to isolate Gaza's Hamas Islamists economically, diplomatically and militarily, while allowing funds and trade to flow to the Western-backed emergency government set up in the West Bank by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

A U.N. report on Wednesday warned that Gaza could start running out of flour, rice, edible oil and other commodities in 2-4 weeks unless Israel opened its border crossings.

Israel has allowed in some humanitarian shipments and Western diplomats and aid groups said Israeli officials were trying to find indirect channels in order to coordinate humanitarian issues with the Hamas administration in Gaza.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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