Israel allows export of limited produce
Updated: 2011-11-28 09:33
GAZA - Despite the earlier Israeli threats to cut infrastructure services to the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials said that the Israeli authorities allowed on Sunday the first shipment of strawberries for this season from the costal enclave to the European markets.
Raed Fattouh, the Palestinian liaison official, said in a press statement emailed to reporters that the export of strawberries will be followed by vegetables and flowers next month, adding that "two trucks crossed through Kerem Shalom, the only commercial crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel."
Agricultural produce is the main item Israel allows to be exported from the Gaza Strip for the third year despite its economic sanctions on the coastal enclave. An Israeli blockade was imposed on the Gaza Strip right after the Islamic Hamas movement seized control of it by force in June 2007.
Israel began to allow the export of strawberries from Gaza after a meeting between Gaza businessmen and Israeli officials two weeks ago.
"We hope Israel will increase the number of trucks to 14 every day to secure the export of the 600 tons of strawberries Gaza farmers have planted," Fattouh said.
Israel Radio said Israel will allow the export of some vegetables, like tomatoes and pepper, in the near future, although Israeli officials threatened earlier to cut infrastructure services to the Gaza Strip in response to a Palestinian reconciliation deal between Hamas and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party.
The radio reported that Dani Ayalon, a deputy to Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, said Saturday that his ministry was studying cutting off the infrastructure services, such as water and electricity supplies, to the Gaza Strip, where residents have been suffering from deteriorating living conditions for four years.
Ayalon also hinted that Israel might reoccupy the West Bank and end the rule of the PNA in response to the implementation of the Egypt-brokered Palestinian reconciliation pact signed in Cairo in May.
"Implementing this deal would turn the Palestinian (National) Authority (to) an authority of terrorism and this would block any hope of reaching any peace agreement with Israel," Ayalon said, referring to a meeting held in Cairo on Thursday between Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal, where they agreed to reconcile.
Abbas and Meshaal decided to soon implement the reconciliation deal and agreed to end more than four years of internal division between the Gaza Strip ruled by Hamas and the West Bank ruled by Abbas and his Fatah party.
Israel's response to the Palestinian reconciliation "will be an escalation to the siege on Gaza and a violation to international law," said Saeb Erekat, a senior PNA official, adding that "Israel wants to renew the closure on Gaza's 1.5 million people."
In late May 2010, Israel decided to ease the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip after its naval forces attacked a Gaza-bound aids flotilla and killed nine Turkish activists. The Palestinians called for complete lifting of the blockade.
"The population of Gaza are punished by an unfair closure and deprived of food, medicine, water and electricity, and now Israel wants to escalate this closure. The Palestinian authority is determined to question Israel by heading to Geneva on why it insists to punish innocent civilians," said Erekat.
Meanwhile, Salah al-Bardaweel, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, told Xinhua that if Israel implements its threats of cutting off the infrastructure services to the Gaza Strip, "this would be considered as an Israeli tightening of the siege and an imposing of racist measures on the population."
"Israel escapes from paying the price of occupying Gaza and the West Bank and wants to... implement the policy of occupation, wars and aggression, and at the same time it refuses to pay the price, therefore it wants to turn its occupation into investment," said al-Bardaweel.
The Hamas official accused Israel of trying to undermine the efforts to achieve a real Palestinian reconciliation on the ground that ends the status of division and reunite the Gaza Strip with the West Bank, adding that his movement is determined to finalize the reconciliation despite Israel's threats.
Israeli war jets carried out three successive airs strikes overnight on the military training posts of Gaza militants, with no injuries reported, according to Hamas security officials. The Israeli air strikes on Gaza were a response to an earlier Grad rocket attack launched from Gaza at southern Israel.