Gaza Strawberries 311.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Israel on Sunday facilitated the transfer of a large shipment of strawberries
and flowers out of the Hamas-controlled territory, as a first step toward
increasing exports to Europe.
Started four years ago as a small operation
funded by the Dutch government, the expanded shipments were approved by Defense
Minister Ehud Barak and overseen by the office of the Coordinator of Government
Activities in the Territories.
COGAT said that by the end of the week,
around two-and-a- half tons of strawberries and 2,000 flowers would be en route
to European markets via the Kerem Shalom crossing.
Defense sources said
the export of the produce was the first step toward realizing COGAT’s goal of
beginning larger exports from Gaza to Europe toward the end of the first quarter
As reported by The Jerusalem Post
Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, who serves as the coordinator, has drawn up a
plan under which Palestinian Authority officials will deploy at the Kerem Shalom
crossing and oversee the import and export of goods.
The sources said the
expansion of exports would depend on renovations being done at the crossing to
enable it to facilitate the processing of 400 trucks a day in both
Israel will also need to deploy scanning machines that can
X-ray cargo containers and ensure that terrorismrelated goods are not being
transferred out of Gaza. The sources said that additional exports would only be
allowed if the PA maintained an official presence at the crossing to oversee the
process and if the move did not strengthen Hamas and weaken the PA.
the beginning of the year, COGAT has approved 78 projects that have the funding
and supervision of the international community and the approval of the PA. An
emphasis has been put on education, health and infrastructure
Still, Israel needs to do more to ease its blockade of Gaza and
allow exports from the territory, Mideast Quartet envoy Tony Blair said in an
interview on Sunday, after meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin
“There has been significant change in Gaza, but not nearly as
much as we need,” Blair said.
“I hope that in a short space of time, we
will get some progress there, because a functioning private sector in Gaza is
important,” he said. “It is important for the economy of Gaza, but it is also
important for the people there.”
Blair said Gazans, most of whom receive
some aid, don’t want handouts.
“They want to run their own affairs
properly,” he said.AP contributed to this report.