Obama Welcomes Ease of Gaza Blockade, Reaffirms Israel's Right to Self-defense

White House calls on aid groups to ensure weapons not enter Gaza, urges Hamas to free Gilad Shalit.

The White House on Sunday welcomed Israel's decision to ease its blockade on the Gaza Strip and allow an inflow of construction materials, calling on all parties "to act responsibly in meeting the needs of the people of Gaza".

"Once implemented, we believe these arrangements should significantly improve conditions for Palestinians in Gaza, while preventing the entry of weapons," the White House said in a statement.


"We will work with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the Quartet, and other international partners to ensure these arrangements are implemented as quickly and effectively as possible and to explore additional ways to improve the situation in Gaza, including greater freedom of movement and commerce between Gaza and the West Bank."

The White House added that President Barack Obama would discuss the new policy and further steps during his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington on July 6.

Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs reaffirmed "Israels right to self-defense, and our commitment to work with Israel and our international partners to prevent the illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition into Gaza."

The White House also called on Hamas to release captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been in Palestinian captivity since he was abducted in a cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip in June 2006.

"We believe that the implementation of the policy announced by the government of Israel today should improve life for the people of Gaza, and we will continue to support that effort going forward," the White House concluded.

"We urge 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. There is no need for unnecessary confrontations, and we call on all parties to act responsibly in meeting the needs of the people of Gaza."