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After Gaza flotilla raid, Israel close to easing Gaza blockade

An Israeli cabinet meeting on easing the Gaza blockade broke up without a decision today. But it appears the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla raid is forcing Israel to dramatically alter its approach to the Hamas-run enclave.

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Israeli soldiers in a jeep, patrol as a Palestinian national flag is set up by protesters near the border line with Israel, during a weekly protest march against Israel's closure of Gaza, in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday. After the Gaza flotilla raid, Israel has come under international pressure to ease the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

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The Israeli cabinet ended a meeting to discuss abandoning a three-year-old economic blockade of the Gaza Strip without a decision on Wednesday, deferring action until tomorrow even as most signs point to a significant easing of Israeli restrictions on imports of foodstuffs and construction materials into the impoverished Hamas-run territory.

Israel's looming about face on a policy that is popular with its citizens appears to be a response to the Jewish state's diplomatic isolation since an Israeli commando raid left nine Turkish citizens dead on a flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Diplomatic prodding from Israeli allies appears to be shifting a policy which few Israelis questioned publicly even in the initial days after the May 31 shooting of the pro-Palestinian activists on the Gaza flotilla.

IN PICTURES: The Gaza flotilla and the aftermath of the Israeli naval raid

"It's especially the pressure of those who are considered to be our friends, like the US,'' says Avraham Diskin, a political science professor at Hebrew University. "The [blockade] rules were not logical or coherent… People continued with the rules of the game that seemed to work, but now everything was reopened because the flotilla was a catalyst. It doesn't look too good, I agree.''

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