Blair hopes Israel will present softer Gaza blockade plan “in a couple of days”
Middle East Envoy Tony Blair hopes Israel will present measures within “a couple of days” that will allow goods for normal daily life into Gaza, but stop weapons from entering the coastal Palestinian territory.
Blair told Reuters during an interview in New York that softening the the 3-year-old Israeli blockade on Gaza would be a very significant step forward and would change the lives of people in Gaza.
“I hope within the next couple of days that the Israeli government will bring forward the measures that will allow us to draw the clearest possible distinction between not letting weapons into Gaza and letting into Gaza, as a matter of course, the items necessary for normal daily life, for people to have access to proper services and for legitimate business to be able to operate properly,” Blair said.
International pressure has mounted to lift or ease what Israel calls its “closure” of the enclave, run by Hamas Islamists, since naval commandos stormed a Gaza-bound aid flotilla on May 31, killing nine pro-Palestinian activists.
Israel imposed the blockade soon after Hamas, which has spurned Western calls to recognize the Jewish state’s right to exist, won legislative elections in 2006. Restrictions were tightened after Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip in 2007.
“The reasons why I have always argued that this policy is counterproductive in the interests of Israel, nevermind the interests of the people in Gaza, is that if we stop stuff coming in the legitimate crossings, it just comes in smuggled through the tunnels and that’s why it’s sensible to change it,” he said, referring to secret tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.
The former British prime minister said that Hamas also needed to release an Israeli soldier it has held captive since 2006.