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MIDEAST > 50 aid groups demand Israel lift Gaza blockade

GAZA CITY - The Associated Press

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In this May 31, 2010 file photo, the Mavi Marmara ship, the lead boat of a flotilla headed to the Gaza Strip which was stormed by Israeli naval commandos in a predawn confrontation, sails into the port of Ashdod, Israel.  AP Photo

In this May 31, 2010 file photo, the Mavi Marmara ship, the lead boat of a flotilla headed to the Gaza Strip which was stormed by Israeli naval commandos in a predawn confrontation, sails into the port of Ashdod, Israel. AP Photo

Fifty international aid groups and U.N. agencies have called on Israel to lift its Gaza border blockade, saying it violates international law.

Israel began restricting access to Gaza after Hamas militants captured an Israeli soldier in 2006. It tightened the blockade after Hamas seized the territory in 2007.

Since 2010, Israel has allowed most imports, but still sharply limits Gaza exports and travel. Egypt used to go along, but eased restrictions after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak last year.

The groups noted on Thursday that more than half of Gaza's 1.6 million people are children. Signatories include seven U.N. agencies, among them the World Health Organization.

Israel says the blockade helps prevent attacks by militants. Others say it is a largely unsuccessful attempt to pressure Hamas.

June/14/2012

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