JERUSALEM, June 11 (Reuters) - Israel said on Friday it wants to enlist global support to improve the flow of civilian goods to the blockaded Gaza Strip, while seeing to it that weapons do not reach the Hamas-ruled territory.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under rising pressure to ease an embargo on Gaza since a deadly raid on a Turkish-backed aid ship destined for the enclave last month, held talks on the issue with Middle East envoy Tony Blair.
The aim of the meeting was to recruit international support behind the principle that weapons and military supportive material will not reach Gaza or Hamas, while humanitarian and civilian goods may reach the area and its residents via additional means, Netanyahu's office said in a statement.
Israel further eased restrictions on goods to Gaza this week by announcing it would permit additional food items such as snack foods and carbonated beverages to be imported via Israeli-controlled crossings, starting next week.
The announcement was made on Wednesday as US President Barack Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held talks in Washington about the Gaza embargo, as highlighted by the lethal May 31 raid, and ways to advance Middle East peace talks.
In the seaborne incident, Israeli soldiers shot dead nine Turkish protesters after being assaulted with knives and clubs when they boarded the humanitarian aid vessel to prevent it from breaching the blockade to reach Gaza's coast.
A variety of goods enter Gaza from neighbouring Egypt as well, but aid groups have warned of a looming humanitarian disaster in the area home to 1.5 million Palestinians, due to Israel's restrictions on goods transiting its crossings.
Israel says the embargo it imposed when Hamas rose to power in 2006 is aimed at preventing weapons from reaching the Iranian-backed Islamists who have refused peace initiatives with Israel because they reject its right to exist.
Israel has also largely banned cement imports into Gaza, which has limited efforts to rebuild homes damaged in a three-week war launched in late 2008 with the stated aim of curbing cross-border rocket fire.