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Updated: June 14, 2010 16:47 IST

Collective Arab plan to break siege

Atul Aneja
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Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa of Egypt shakes hands with a Palestinian in Zeitoun on Sunday. Photo: AP
AP Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa of Egypt shakes hands with a Palestinian in Zeitoun on Sunday. Photo: AP

Amr Moussa entry into Gaza fuels speculation

Arab League head Amr Moussa on Sunday entered Gaza from the Egyptian side, fuelling speculation that a collective Arab plan to break the Israeli siege of the coastal strip maybe on the anvil.

Soon after entering Gaza from the Rafah border crossing on Sunday morning, Mr. Moussa said: “This blockade...must be lifted and must be broken and the Arab League decision is very clear in this regard.” He added that he was looking for support from Arab governments for the implementation of the Arab League resolution demanding the lifting of the siege.

Mr. Moussa is the highest ranking Arab official to enter Gaza after Hamas established control over the costal strip in 2007. The visit follows Israel's attack on a humanitarian aid ship on May 31, which has generated a global outcry.

While he was received by leaders from Hamas, Mr. Moussa made it clear that his visit should not be construed as an expression of support for any Palestinian faction. Mr. Moussa chose to meet head of the Hamas government Ismail Haniyeh not in his office, but at his residence later in the day.

Nevertheless, Hamas Health Minister Basim Naeem said Mr. Moussa's visit signalled that “the boycott between Gaza and the Arab nation was broken”. He hoped that the visit would “be the start of a practical plan to lift the [Israeli] blockade of Gaza once and for all, in a complete and comprehensive way”.

However, later on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the lifting of the naval blockade, but expressed readiness to ease the three-year old siege on Gaza.

“Israel will continue to prevent ships from reaching Gaza, while simultaneously easing the blockade,” Mr. Netanyahu was quoted as saying.

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, with this declaration, made during the course of a meeting with Ministers belonging to the Likud party, Mr. Netanyahu rejected the proposal made by the Foreign Ministers of France, Spain and Italy, that Gaza-bound ships be searched by European inspectors in Cyprus.

Also on Sunday, Mr. Netanyahu announced that the former Supreme Court Justice, Yaakov Tirkel, would head the Israeli investigation into the events that led to the raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla nearly two weeks ago.

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