Israel considering loosening naval blockade of Gaza
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to consider easing Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip by loosening the naval blockade of the beleaguered territory, Israeli media reported Thursday night.
According to a report that aired on Israel's Channel 2 television, the Israeli leader is prepared to allow international inspectors to examine each ship carrying goods for the strip to make sure weapons are not smuggled in, DPA reported.
The examinations could be carried out at the Egyptian port of al- Arish on the Sinai coast, or at the Israeli port of Ashdod, the report said.
Netanyahu reportedly told British former prime minister Tony Blair that while Israel wanted to allow civilian goods into the territory, "we will not renounce our right to prevent weapons reaching Hamas."
The prime minister met Blair, the Middle East envoy of the Quartet of the US, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, on Thursday.
Netanyahu's intention to loosen the naval blockade comes in the wake of fierce criticism directed at Israel, after the Israeli navy on Monday intercepted and seized six ships carrying aid to the strip.
An Irish vessel, which did not sail with the flotilla but was expected to reach Gaza this weekend, has been delayed. However Netanyahu was quoted Thursday night as telling top ministers in a specially convened meeting that Israel would not allow the ship, the Rachel Corrie, to reach the Gaza Strip.