Congressman says US should break Gaza blockade

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The Independent Online

The United States should break Israel's blockade of Gaza and deliver badly needed supplies by sea, a US congressman told Gaza students.

Rep. Brian Baird, a Democrat from Washington state, also urged President Barack Obama's Mideast envoy to visit the Hamas-ruled territory to get a firsthand look at the destruction caused by Israeli's military offensive last year.

The Obama administration, like its predecessor, shuns Hamas because the Islamic militant group refuses to recognize Israel or renounce violence.

Israel and Egypt have restricted access to Gaza since Hamas' victory in parliament elections in 2006 and tightened the blockade after Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007.

Israel allows humanitarian supplies and food into Gaza, but has kept out cement and other building supplies needed for reconstruction. Israel argues such materials could be diverted by Hamas for military use.

Baird, who has announced his retirement from Congress, told a group of Gaza students Sunday evening that the US should not condone the blockade.

"We ought to bring roll-on, roll-off ships and roll them right to the beach and bring the relief supplies in, in our version of the Berlin airlift," he said, adding that the supplies could be delivered to U.N. aid agencies.

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