Israel to Unveil Measures to Ease Gaza Blockade

The security cabinet is expected to approve a plan outlined by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Quartet envoy to the Mideast Tony Blair.

Israel is expected to approve measures on Wednesday that will ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip and allow more aid into the territory.

Tony Blair and Benjamin Netanyahu

The security cabinet will discuss and likely approve a plan outlined by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Quartet envoy to the Mideast Tony Blair, which focuses on consolidating a list of goods that will not be allowed into Gaza. All goods that do not appear on that list would be transferred into the coastal strip.

In addition, the plan will allow the transfer into Gaza of construction materials meant for use only by the United Nations. Israel would require UN supervision of these materials to ensure they are not transferred to Gaza's Hamas rulers.

Israel said on Tuesday that an agreement has been reached with the UN to deliver tons of aid to Gaza carried on a flotilla attacked by Israeli naval commandos on May 31.

The Israel Defense Forces said the UN will supervise use of the goods, including food, clothes and medicine. Up to now, the Hamas rulers of Gaza have refused to accept the aid as a protest against Israel's three-year blockade.

Meanwhile, the UN said Tuesday that an international consensus has emerged demanding that Israel lift the blockade of Gaza Strip and replace it with a "different and more positive strategy."

"The flotilla crisis is the latest symptom of a failed policy," said Robert Serry, the UN special envoy for Middle East peace process.

"The situation in Gaza is unsustainable and the current policy is unacceptable and counter-productive, and requires a different, more positive strategy," Serry said during a UN Security Council session on the Middle East.

"The closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip needs to come to an end," he said. "There is now a welcome international consensus on Gaza."

He said the quartet - the UN, the European Union, Russia and the U.S. - has agreed that there must be a "fundamental change" to the situation in Gaza, which has been under Israeli blockade since Hamas took over the territory three years ago. The quartet is leading the diplomatic campaign to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He said Turkish ship owners and Israeli authorities have agreed to hand the entire cargo of supplies over to the UN for timely distribution in Gaza.

"The UN is ready to accept the responsibility on an exceptional basis," Serry said. He said the size of the humanitarian cargo is small compared with the needs of Palestinians in Gaza.

He said it was agreed by both sides that the UN alone will determine the "appropriate humanitarian use in Gaza."

"We have reason to believe that the de facto authorities in Gaza will respect the independence of the UN programming in this regard," Serry said in a briefing on the May 31 flotilla incident. "I appreciate the constructive role played by the government of Turkey in facilitating this process."

The three-ship flotilla tried to break the Israeli maritime blockade of Gaza, but it was stopped by the Israeli airborne and naval raid that resulted in the deaths of eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American. More than 30 people were injured, including Israeli military personnel.

Israel has insisted on screening all Gaza-bound cargo to prevent the import of missiles, cement, metal goods and other material that could be used for weapons or fortresses by the Hamas government.