21 Jun 2010

Israeli easing of Gaza blockade not enough, says UN

3:30 pm on 21 June 2010

United Nations representatives say Israel's announcement that it will ease its three-year blockade of the Gaza Strip does not go far enough.

They are calling for an end to the blockade of the tiny enclave, where 1.5 million people are crammed into an area of 360 square kilometres.

Israel says it will allow in civilian goods by land, but not items it says could be used for military purposes, such as cement and pipes.

Chris Gunness, a spokesperson for a UN agency that distributes aid in Gaza, says more relaxation of the blockade is needed.

The United States and Britain have welcomed Israel's decision to ease its crippling blockade, but Palestinians say they want it lifted to allow the free movement of goods and people.

Israel is not lifting its sea blockade of Gaza, despite international calls to do so after after Turks and an American were killed when Israeli commandos stormed an aid flotilla on 31 May.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, says the move is an attempt to circumvent international pressure to lift the Gaza blockade in full.

Blocking of envoy upsets Germany

Meanwhile, Germany has criticised Israel for preventing its development minister Dirk Niebel from entering the Gaza Strip to meet Palestinian refugees.

Mr Niebel says Israel needs transparency in its announced change of political policy towards Gaza and his visit would have created that openness.

Mr Niebel wanted to visit the territory to meet representatives of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees.