Steps taken to ease blockade of Gaza
Israel on Sunday pledged to allow goods -- except for weapons and related material -- into the Gaza Strip via land crossings.
President Obama and former British prime minister Tony Blair, who worked to persuade Israel to ease its blockade of the Hamas-led territory after Israel's seizure of a Turkish aid ship May 31, welcomed the statement.
Israel announced last week that it was letting more goods into Gaza. On Sunday, it formally agreed to switch from a list of permitted goods to a list of banned goods and said it would allow construction projects to proceed if they are supervised by the Palestinian Authority or another third party.
Under the policy change, Palestinians would still be permitted to cross from Gaza into Israel only for humanitarian reasons primarily.
"As conditions improve, Israel will consider additional ways to facilitate the movement of people to and from Gaza," Israel said in a statement.
With the list of banned items still vague, it remained unclear whether Israel would allow the full resumption of industry and the export of products manufactured in Gaza. But Blair said the Israeli decision allowed for the "expansion of commercial activity."
The United States urged all those wishing to deliver goods to Gaza to "do so through established channels" and to avoid "unnecessary confrontations."
-- Janine Zacharia