Gaza, Feb 17 (IANS) Israel has moved to ease the security blockade that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip for around eight years, a senior Palestinian official said Monday.

The Palestinian official Ma’roof Zahran told Xinhua that Israel informed his office of its decision to carry out a series of measures to relax the blockade.

Israel has decided to increase the number of patients travelling everyday from Gaza to either West Bank or Israeli hospitals from 80 to 120, according to the official.

In addition, 800 merchants, instead of 400 earlier, will be allowed to travel to Israel, while 50 students will be able to go for studying at West Bank universities every month.

“Israel will also allow students to travel from Gaza through (the) Erez crossing and to Jordan to study abroad,” he said, adding that 450 VIP passage permissions will be given to Gaza businessmen.

Zahran stressed that easing the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip was a positive step forward, but noted that “what is needed is to end the Israeli blockade and ease all the security measures imposed on the territory”.

The Israeli authorities have so far not commented on the decision.