Official: Eased Gaza blockade means less pressure on Hamas

Israel needs leverage over Hamas to free Gilad Schalit, defense officials say.

The government’s decision to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip will make it difficult for Israel to use its leverage over Hamas to free Gilad Schalit, cease terrorist activity and hold reconciliation talks with Fatah, defense officials said Thursday.
Based on the government’s decision, Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, coordinator of government activities in the territories, on Thursday morning informed the Palestinians that they could now receive whatever foods they want. Until now, Israel has not allowed into Gaza all types of food as part of its blockade policy.
In addition to increasing the amount and type of foods allowed into Gaza, Israel will also increase the assistance it provides construction projects in Gaza. It will work in conjunction with international organizations to ensure that building materials such as cement and metal are not confiscated by Hamas and used for terror purposes.
The third category of supplies is for the private sector, which includes private Palestinian businessmen who will want to import into Gaza materials and equipment forbidden until now.
“This is where we plan to keep up the pressure on Hamas,” one defense official said. “We need to keep some level of leverage so we do not inadvertently strengthen Hamas and also prevent a reconciliation with Fatah.”
One of the Defense Ministry’s more immediate challenges will be tofacilitate the sudden surge in the amount of supplies transferred dailyto the Gaza Strip, on average about 100 truckloads a day via the KeremShalom Crossing near the Egyptian border.
One possibility underconsideration to facilitate the increase is to open Karni Crossing,which has been closed in recent years due to constant terror threatsagainst the crossing and the fear that Palestinian terror groups aredigging terror tunnels underneath it.
A second possibility will be to renovate Kerem Shalom and to keep the crossing open for several more hours a day.