For the first time in five years, Israel has allowed farmers in Gaza to export spices to Europe, the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said on Sunday.

Israel banned the export of spices from Gaza in September 2007, after Hamas took over the Strip in a bloody coup, COGAT said. It was part of a larger ban on exports and imports meant to economically cripple the terrorist organization.

“Farmers in Gaza were given tutorials on how to grow spices and they were then provided the seedlings from Israel,” COGAT said. “Now, finally, on this Sunday, October 21, 2012, was the inaugural export through the Kerem Shalom crossing, after which the spices are to be sent to Europe for distribution.”

The project was initiated by the Israeli Coordination and Liaison Administration for the Gaza Strip and coordinated with the Khan Yunis Association in Gaza and the Arava Export Growers in Israel, COGAT said.

On Sunday, only one truck with a ton of spices left southern Gaza through the land crossing at the Kerem Shalom crossing, COGAT said.

It added that Gaza farmers could continue to export spices to Europe throughout the season.

Sari Bashi, the executive director of Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, said that Gaza’s trade with Europe was small and it would be more beneficial if farmers could export the spices to Israel or the West Bank.

“Prior to 2007, 85 percent of outgoing goods from Gaza were sold in the West Bank and Israel,” she said.

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