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    U.S. welcomes Israel's decision to ease Gaza blockade

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    The United States welcomed Israeli's Thursday announcement that it would ease the land blockade of the Gaza Strip.

    The United States welcomed Israeli's Thursday announcement that it would ease the land blockade of the Gaza Strip, the U.S. Department of State said.

    The Palestinian authorities say Israel only allows 150 types of products into the Gaza Strip after Israel and Egypt tightened the blockade of the enclave in 2007.

    "Well, we welcome the general principles announced earlier today by the Israeli Government. They reflect the type of changes we've been significant with our Israeli friends. And [U.S. Mideast envoy] Senator [George] Mitchell, who was in the region, will continue working on them in the coming days," Mark Toner, an acting deputy department spokesman, told a daily press briefing.

    Tel Aviv's announcement came amid increasing international pressure to end the blockade after Israeli commandos stormed the Gaza aid flotilla last month.

    Israeli commandos stormed on May 31 the six-ship Freedom Flotilla in international waters off the coast of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip as it carried some 10,000 tons of aid and up to 700 human rights activists to the Palestinian enclave. Nine activists were killed and dozens were injured. Hundreds were deported.

    Toner added that the United States hopes the situation in Gaza will improve, and added that Hamas still must release captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

    "As the President has said, the situation in Gaza is unsustainable. And as these principles get further developed and implemented, we're hopeful that the situation in Gaza will improve. Meanwhile, we just would also reiterate our call for the unconditional release of Corporal Shalit," he said.

    Israel has been pushing for the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israel Defense Forces soldier seized in June 2006 by Palestinian militants while on patrol near the Gaza Strip. The release of Shalit is a major precondition for the lifting of the blockade.


    WASHINGTON, June 18 (RIA Novosti)

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