Hamas rejects snack foods Israel permitted into Gaza, demands full end to blockade

By Ibrahim Barzak, AP
Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hamas rejects Israel-approved snack foods for Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Hamas government said Thursday it will not let newly approved food items into the Gaza Strip as long as Israel maintains its blockade of the territory.

Israel slightly eased the much-criticized blockade on Wednesday by permitting snacks, spices and some other previously banned food items into Gaza. The order was symbolic at best, leaving a ban in place on desperately needed construction and industrial materials.

Hamas Economics Minister Ziad al-Zaza said the government would not allow imports of potato chips, soft drinks and fruit salad from neighboring Israel. He said Gaza’s own factories could produce these goods if Israel would only allow in raw materials.

“Gaza does not need soft drinks, soda and fruit salad. Gaza needs raw materials, cement, and spare parts for the local factories,” al-Zaza said. “We have local factories that can make soda and soft drinks. If the border opens, Gaza’s factories can export fruit salads and potato chips to the entire region.”

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza three years ago after Hamas violently seized power. Israel says the embargo is needed to prevent the Iranian-backed Hamas, which has fired thousands of rockets into Israel, from building up its arsenal.

However, the blockade has failed to weaken Hamas, while hurting Gaza’s economy by putting tens of thousands of people out of work and shutting most of the territory’s factories.

Israel has been under heavy international pressure to ease the embargo since a naval raid last week killed nine pro-Palestinian activists on a flotilla trying to breach the blockade.

Israel has said it will not lift the blockade unless Hamas renounces violence and frees an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas-allied militants four years ago.

The international uproar has also put pressure on Egypt to ease its closure of Gaza’s southern border. Following the flotilla affair, Egypt opened the border to allow Gazans to exit the area. Thousands of people have been waiting to travel abroad for jobs, university study and medical care.

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