GAZA, June 18 (UPI) -- Israel has drawn praise from U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders for easing its Gaza blockade.
The White House called the move a "step in the right direction" Thursday while Tony Blair, the United Nations envoy to the Mideast, termed it a "good start," Haaretz reported.
However, other officials, including another U.N. official and the European Union, expressed skepticism.
The new product list includes all food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils, mattresses and towels. The items on the food list had changed constantly.
Israel also agreed to allow more construction materials for war damage repair through civilian projects under international supervision, government and military officials told Haaretz.
"It was agreed to liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza (and) expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision," the security cabinet said in a statement after the meeting.
Israel has come under heavy criticism since a confrontation May 31 between Israeli commandos and Gaza-bound humanitarian ships containing Turkish activists left nine activists dead.
U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the Obama administration wanted an "expansion of the scope and types of goods into Gaza ... while addressing, obviously, Israel's legitimate security needs."
Blair said easing the blockade could bolster efforts to reopen Gaza Strip border crossings with European and Palestinian participation.
Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, called on Israel to ensure "many, many more goods can get into Gaza" and said the EU could support Israel's easing the embargo with a mission on the ground.
"I look with great interest at what the Israeli cabinet is saying. This is an in-principle statement …. Obviously the detail is what matters," Ashton said in Brussels.
Hamas lawmaker Salah Bardawil criticized Israel's move, saying, "We want a real lifting of the siege, not window-dressing."