Congressman calls for US to circumvent Israeli Gaza blockade

Rep. Brian Baird compares Strip to Berlin Blockade after third visit to Gaza since Hamas took over.

By HAVIV RETTIG GUR
February 21, 2010 04:27
1 minute read.
Congressman calls for US to circumvent Israeli Gaza blockade

gazans leave gaza 248 88. (photo credit: AP)

 
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Rep. Brian Baird, a Democrat from Washington state, called on the Obama administration on Friday to “circumvent” Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Baird spoke in Jerusalem after a two-day visit to Gaza, his third since Hamas took over the territory in 2007.

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The US should circumvent Israel’s blockade, “much like we did when we circumvented the Berlin Blockade,” he said. “We would accomplish this using roll-on/off ships supplying the needed material for Palestinians to rebuild their society.”

Baird criticized Israel for being too stringent in its blockade, which he said “was established so that contraband weapons and equipment used for rockets to shell Israel will not enter Gaza.

“While there are foodstuffs entering Gaza, the shipments are tightly controlled and items such as tomato paste and pasta are sometimes restricted by the Israelis. Palestinians cannot rebuild their homes, their schools, their hospitals because they cannot import the cement needed to complete the projects. They cannot build sewage systems and prevent 55 million metric meters of sewage flow into the Mediterranean because the Israelis limit the amount of construction materials into Gaza.”

He also called for US special envoy George Mitchell to visit Gaza “to determine first-hand humanitarian needs.”

Israel has rejected Baird’s call, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor telling CNN that he wondered whether Baird’s support for a Berlin-like breaking of the blockade would have extended to a Berlin under the control of Nazi Germany. The best way to help Gaza residents, Palmor said, was “to get rid of those who took power in a bloody coup and now rule there with the bayonet.”

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