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Gazans demand a complete lift of siege, as Israel decides to ease it

GAZA -- Dozens of Palestinians demonstrated on Sunday in front of the closed Karni commercial crossing on the border between eastern Gaza Strip and Israel, calling for Israel to completely lift the blockade and reopen all crossings.

Saud Abu Ramadan and Emad Drimly, Xinhua, 20 June 2010

The Palestinians held protest as the Israeli cabinet decided to allow in all goods excluding materials used for military products. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was authorized to decide the kinds and quality of the materials.

The Israeli prime minister is expected to brief the Middle East Quartet Envoy Toni Blair his decisions later on Sunday.

The Palestinians, joining a protest organized by the Popular Committee to Challenge the Siege, demanded the international community to press Israel to completely lift the blockade and allow in all goods.

Jamal al-Khudari, the committee's chief, said the closed Karni crossing shows Israel hasn't eased the blockade, adding before the siege was imposed some 800 trucks went through the Karni crossing everyday.

He accused Israel, who has been under international pressure to lift the blockade since its navy attacked a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last month, of using the media to show the world that it has been easing the siege.

"But look, there is no easing of the siege and they still ban construction and industrial raw materials," Al-Khudari said.

He said the end of the blockade has to meet four requirements, namely the opening of all commercial crossings, allowing in all goods, a safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank and a safe seaway passage to Gaza.

Unnamed Israeli sources said the Jewish state has listed 120 kinds of goods that are not allowed into the Gaza Strip, but did not give any detailed information, only saying these goods can be used for military purpose.

The Islamic Hamas movement on Sunday rejected Israeli demands to free an Israeli soldier held in Gaza and give up violence.

"Hamas is sticking to its strategy and will not give up any Palestinian national principle, mainly resistance which is a legitimate right," said Ismail Radwan, a spokesman for Hamas.

Earlier on Sunday, Israeli President Shimon Peres said Gaza siege would be unnecessary if Hamas stops its terrorist conducts and frees Gilad Shalit captured in 2006.

Peres' statements, according to Radwan, mean Israel "is seeking to keep the siege forever."

Besides, Radwan said Hamas would release Shalit only "under a prisoner exchange deal that meets the demands of the captors."

Hamas wants Israel to free as many as 1,000 Palestinian and Arab prisoners, including the 450 that Hamas selected to change for Shalit. 

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