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Pope's urging brings Gaza blockade to forefront

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A week ago United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon also called for an end to the ban, which prevents all but the most basic supplies from entering Gaza, saying it was "unacceptable."

Under increasing international pressure on Israel to change its policy regarding shipments into the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to promise US President Barack Obama when they meet next week that Israel will remove all restrictions on foodstuffs headed for Gaza, aides said.

Pasta, lentils, jam all rejected

During the last days of previous prime minister Ehud Olmert's term, the Israeli cabinet made a decision that there would be "unfettered" access of food and medical supplies to Gaza. But Israel's Defense Ministry, which controls the borders, has yet to implement that decision. That was in late March. But numerous aid agencies say they've seen no change, and myriad food products languish on trucks and in warehouses, are rejected as "luxury" items that don't fall into the category of humanitarian assistance, or are turned down for unexplained reasons.

"The government of Israel said it would allow the transfer of food items on an unrestricted basis to Gaza, after it's been ascertained that these are food products. But we have not seen any change on the ground," says Sari Bashi, the executive director of Gisha, the Legal Center for the Freedom of Movement, based in Tel Aviv.

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