U.S. Pressures Israel to Reconsider Gaza Blockade

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Under pressure from the U.S., Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering ways to allow more goods into the Gaza Strip, Israeli media reports said on Friday.

But in the meantime, Israel is standing its ground, preparing to intercept another protest ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, over the weekend, which is aiming to run the Gaza sea blockade.

Since Hamas' violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israel has allowed only humanitarian goods - tons a day - to pass through the land crossings and has totally blockaded access from the Mediterranean Sea.

This week's incident - in which nine pro-Palestinian "activists" were killed in confrontation with Israeli troops who boarded the Mavi Marmara, one of six ships in a flotilla aiming to break the naval blockade - brought the issue of the blockade to the forefront of world attention.

U.N. Condemnation

Israel was roundly condemned by the United Nations for the incident, even though the Israeli army released footage of its commandos - who were armed with paintball guns - being brutally attacked by so-called "peace activists."  Reports later emerged that dozens of the "activists" were actually jihadi terrorists.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Israel is considering a plan that would include keeping the Gaza port closed as it is now and instead divert ships to its port at Ashdod, where goods would be inspected and then transported overland to Gaza.

If the new policy is approved, it would "increase the variety and amount of goods" allowed into Gaza, the paper said.

Clinton: 'Expand Humanitarian Aid Flow'

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the U.S. is "evaluating ways of expanding the flow of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza while protecting Israel's legitimate security interests."

Clinton said the U.S. was working on ideas to share with the Israelis and other international partners because they needed "to deal with the situation in Gaza in a way that both protects Israel's legitimate security interests and fulfills the needs of the people of Gaza."

She also said the U.S. expects Israel to conduct "a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation that conforms to international standards."

Other Choices

Former Israeli National Security Advisor retired Maj.-General Giora Eiland told CBN News earlier this week that Israel could have made other choices several months ago about how to deal with ships trying to break the sea blockade. But faced with the options it had this week - either to allow the ships to dock in Gaza or to prevent them - Israel made the right choice.

"No one is really interested in what really happened there," Eiland said. "I think what we did was the minimum that could be done and the number of the casualties is surprisingly low due to the violence used by the people who were on the ship…but who knows, who cares, who wants to listen," he said.

In the future, Eiland believes Israel could make some kind of deal with foreign governments to allow certain ships into the Gaza port with guarantees from other governments.

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Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

Correspondent, CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

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