In announcing relaxed restrictions on humanitarian aid imports to Gaza, Defense Minister Ehud Barak emphasized that Israel’s partial embargo policy applies across the board. Restrictions on imports to Gaza are no different than those on items brought in to the Palestinian Authority areas of Judea and Samaria, he said.
Speaking to reporters at the United Nations Monday after meeting in New York with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Barak reiterated that humanitarian aid is shipped daily into the region. It is only contraband that is prevented from entry, he said, such as weapons and ammunition used in the continuing attacks against Israel by Gaza’s rulers, the Hamas terrorist organization.
Barak added there is an emphasis on allowing “dual use materials” such as cement and iron, which are aimed at projects led by the U.N., the Quartet or other international bodies – “as long as it comes through Ashdod Port.”
Such materials have in the past been confiscated by Hamas once they entered the region in order to be used for construction of bunkers, terrorist smuggling tunnels and rockets. Bringing such materials through the port allows Israel to first inspect the items to ensure no contraband has been secreted away within the containers or packaging.
“I’d like to remind all of you that the same applies to Ramallah, Jenin and Nablus (Shechem), namely the West Bank, when [a] product has to enter… it goes [first] through Ashdod,” Barak said.
Meanwhile, the international peacekeeping Quartet of nations, comprised of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, issued a strong statement Monday praising Israel’s relaxation of restrictions on shipments into Gaza and reiterating its contention that the current situation is “unsustainable.”
The Quartet said it “recognizes that Israel has legitimate security concerns that must continue to be safeguarded, and believes efforts to maintain security while enabling movement and access for Palestinian people and goods are critical.”
In its statement, the group said it would work to “prevent the illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition into Gaza,” although it did not say how. But in a clear reference to the recent clash on the Turkish-sponsored flotilla attempt to break Israel’s sovereignty over Gaza waters, the Quartet urged “all those wishing to deliver goods to do so through established channels so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via land crossings into Gaza.
“The Quartet emphasizes that there is no need for unnecessary confrontations and calls on all parties to act responsibly in meeting the needs of the people of Gaza.”