Cairo, J'lem ease Gaza blockade

Egypt opens Rafah border, Israel discusses increasing flow of goods.

June 2, 2010 06:59
1 minute read.
A view of the Gaza skyline

gaza strip view skyline 311. (photo credit: AP)

Israel and Egypt signaled a temporary easing of the Gaza Strip blockade following harsh international condemnation of the deadly Israeli raid on an aid flotilla en route to the sealed-off Palestinian territory.

Egypt said it was freely opening its border with Gaza for the first time in more than a year to allow in humanitarian aid, setting off a mad rush to the crossing by thousands of residents, while an Israeli official said there is an "ongoing dialogue" with the international community on how to expand the amount of goods entering the area.

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At the same time, Israel began expelling some of the nearly 700 activists it rounded up in the naval raid, and strongly rejected criticism that its tactics were heavy-handed. The government said late Tuesday it would deport almost all of them within the next two days, but about 50 would be held for investigation into their part in the violence at sea.

A group of 124 activists from nations without diplomatic relations with Israel was deported to Jordan before sunrise Wednesday, Israeli officials said.

Israel pledged to halt a new attempt by pro-Palestinian groups to sail more ships into Gaza, and claimed some of the arrested activists carried weapons and large quantities of cash, raising questions about whether they were mercenaries.

Worldwide condemnation has been flooding in since Israeli naval commandos halted the aid flotilla in international waters overnight Monday, setting off a melee that left nine activists dead and dozens wounded. Turkey, an unofficial backer of the flotilla, has led the criticism, accusing Israel of committing a "massacre," and the UN Security Council demanded an impartial investigation.

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