Israel approves steps to ease Gaza Strip blockade
The announcement came a day after Israeli officials allowed the import of crucial construction material needed for the Gaza Strip's rebuilding following the recent conflict in May.
Tensions have run high in recent weeks. Hamas activists launched incendiary balloons into Israel and a series of deadly clashes have taken place at the border.
A 12-year-old Palestinian child died on August 28, one week after being shot by Israeli fire during a demonstration at besieged Gaza's border with Israel. A few days before, a Palestinian man, later identified as a member of Hamas’ military wing, died after being wounded at a protest over the blockade.
An Israeli police officer was also shot at a demonstration on August 21. He died from his wounds on Monday.
COGAT, the Israeli defence body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, said in a statement that the government approved expanding the Gaza Strip's fishing zone, opening the Kerem Shalom Crossing, increasing water supply to the territory, and increasing the number of Gazan merchants allowed to enter Israel.
It said these steps were “conditional upon the continued preservation of the region’s security stability for the long term.”
Israel and Egypt have blockaded the Gaza Strip since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007, a year after winning a Palestinian election.
Israel says the blockade is needed to keep Hamas from rearming, while critics say the closure amounts to collective punishment.
The blockade, which restricts the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza, has devastated Gaza’s economy.