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Israel Allows Gaza To Export Valentine's Day Flowers

02/12/09 10:26 AM ET   AP

Mideast Israel Palestinians

KEREM SHALOM, Israel — Israel is relaxing its blockade of the Gaza Strip to let through 25,000 carnations headed to Europe for Valentine's Day.

But the head of the Gaza flower growers' association said that was "nothing" compared to the 40 million flowers a year that came out of the territory before the blockade.

The flowers will be Gaza's first exports in a year. Israel has blockaded Gaza since Hamas militants seized control of the territory in June 2007.

Israeli military spokesman Maj. Peter Lerner said Israel agreed to let the flowers through at the request of the Dutch government and Gaza farmers.

Lerner called the move an Israeli gesture and said it did not indicate any change in the overall policy toward Gaza.

But Mohammed Khalil, head of the Gaza flower growers' association, dismissed the move as "nothing."

Khalil said Gaza used to export 40 million flowers a year, so 25,000 carnations is insignificant.

"We had to feed the flowers to the animals because we couldn't export them," he said. "We are afraid of losing our reputation in Europe and are afraid to plan ahead."

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Filed by CatherineLyons  |