Page last updated at 18:32 GMT, Sunday, 4 April 2010 19:32 UK

Private imports allowed into Gaza

Police inspect clothes imports as they enter Gaza - 4 March 2010
Israel is under increasing pressure to ease or lift the blockade

Israel has allowed 10 trucks of clothes and shoes for Palestinian traders into the Gaza Strip for the first time since Hamas took over the territory in 2007.

Food, medicines and fuel are allowed into the territory, but aid agencies say there are serious shortages.

But this is the first time commercial, privately-owned imports have been allowed into the strip.

Israel is under pressure to lift the blockade, which the UN and EU have described as collective punishment.

Gaza map

Egypt also helps maintain the blockade. Its border with Gaza, which has a crossing point for people, is closed most of the time.

Gazan importers said Sunday's shipment was not enough to replenish stocks and called on Israel to release more goods held at its ports since 2007.

"Some of it even smells bad. I can say half of the merchandise is still good, but the other half is damaged. I fear I may not be able to recoup my outlay," Ziad Barbakh told the Reuters news agency

'Tightened blockade'

Israel imposed a tightened blockade after the Islamist Hamas movement seized power in Gaza in 2007.

Conditions were made much worse by the destruction caused by the three-week Israeli offensive in Gaza at the end of 2008.

Palestinian and international human rights group estimate that about 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the conflict.

Aid agencies say there are acute shortages, in particular, of building materials.

The Israeli government says it remains committed to humanitarian supplies of food, medicine and power. But a spokesman said that sanctions would remain in place as long as Hamas is committed to destroying Israel and allows rockets to be fired from Gaza.

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