JERUSALEM, June 20 (Reuters/Joseph Nasr) - Israel
announced new procedures on Sunday to ease its land blockade
on the Gaza Strip
, saying it would start allowing in all goods except for weapons and materials that can be used to make them.
A statement from the prime minister's office said Israel would as quickly as possible publish a list of banned goods, and that all items not on the list would be allowed into the Palestinian territory, which is run by the Hamas
Israel seeks to keep out of Gaza weapons and material that Hamas uses to prepare and carry out terror and rocket attacks towards Israel and its civilians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
said. All other goods will be allowed into Gaza.
Netanyahu announced the plan together with international Middle East envoy Tony Blair, who had been lobbying Israel to restrict its embargo to a list of specified items.
Israel has been under pressure to ease its blockade of Gaza since a May 31 raid on an aid flotilla
bound for the territory, where some 1.5 million Palestinians live.
Under the new procedures, Israel will allow the transfer of construction materials for housing projects that are approved by the Ramallah
-based Palestinian Authority
and supervised by international organisations.
These include projects for schools, health facilities, water treatment and sanitation, the statement said.
Israel also said it would keep the right to ban dual-use construction materials that could be used by Hamas to manufacture weapons and to rebuild its military facilities.
The coastal strip, where 1 million Palestinians depend on aid from the United Nations and other international relief agencies, suffered severe damage in a three-week Israeli offensive launched in December 2008.
The United Nations has complained that the ban on construction materials is hampering reconstruction.
Israel said it would also expand operations at border crossings controlled by its army to allow more goods into Gaza. It said it would consider opening more border crossings if calm persisted along the Israel-Gaza frontier.
The was no immediate reaction from Hamas, which refuses to recognise Israel and seized control of Gaza in 2007 after routing forces loyal to the Fatah
movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
Hamas is opposed to the indirect, US-mediated peace talks that Israel has begun with Abbas, who heads the Palestinian Authority and governs the Israeli-occupied West Bank.