A dispute between Hamas and Fatah over a Palestinian trucking company halted the
flow of goods at the Kerem Shalom crossing – Gaza’s main commercial artery –
leaving 70 trucks stranded on the Israeli side on Monday, according to Israeli
and Palestinian sources.
It is hoped that the crossing will be open for
the transport of goods on Tuesday.
Israel had planned to open the
crossing Monday, after closing it for six days to protest the
Palestinian-launched rocket from Gaza that landed near Ashkelon on February
But on Monday, Hamas asked the Palestinian company, which transports
the goods from Kerem Shalom into Gaza, not to show up at the crossing, according
to Israeli security sources. The company complied.
According to the
Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), it is the first
time that Hamas has closed the crossing for this reason.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah jointly operate the crossing,
and make all formal decisions with respect to the passageway through separate
land crossing authorities; this includes choosing a trucking company to
transport goods in and out of the sterile area at Kerem Shalom.
to Israeli security sources Hamas has unsuccessfully tried to exact a higher tax
fee from the contractor, who to date has refused to cede to that
Israeli security sources added that Hamas is trying to replace
the Palestinian contractor with one that will be under their control and pay a
The PA chose the trucking company that now operates at the
Hamas wants to make up for revenues it has lost now that Egypt
is closing the tunnels for smuggled goods into Gaza, Israeli security sources
According to COGAT, “Hamas has been actively trying to push the
Palestinian Authority out and take charge of the management of Kerem Shalom, so
that they may collect revenue from goods that enter Gaza.” It warned that
Hamas’s actions endangered the crossing’s security and
Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-
Gen. Eitan Dangot spoke Monday morning with senior PA officials and explained to
them that the situation was not viable.
PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein
a- Sheikh said the civil society in Gaza also intervened in the situation to
help ensure that the crossing would open on Tuesday.
The issue, he said,
is one of control.
Hamas wants to use a trucking company that it can
influence and would be accountable to it rather than an independent private
company, Sheikh said.
But, he said, it was the PA which had the ultimate
say here. “We will not bow down to Hamas,” he added.
executive director of Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, charged that
both Israel and Hamas were exacting “collective punishment” on the people of
Gaza: Israel because of the rockets and Hamas because of the trucking
“We are concerned that both governments are restricting movement
and the people of Gaza are paying the price,” Bashi said.
on Monday blamed the situation on Israel and said that the Hamas-run Ministry of
Economy was looking to reduce the cost of delivering goods to Gaza.
Uwaidah, a senior official with the ministry, said Israel has refused to lower
the cost of transporting goods or discuss other proposals to facilitate the work
at the border crossing.
“For the past five years, we have been trying to
solve the issue of the high cost of the fees, which are unrealistic,” he
Uwaidah demanded the publication of a tender to select a private
company that would replace the present one and be in charge of transporting
merchandise at the border crossing.
Israeli security sources said that
Uwaidah statements were untrue, noting that Hamas was not involved in the
technical or diplomatic operations of the crossing. The sources added that
Israel dealt only with the PA on the issue of the crossings.
that Hamas was not trying to lower the crossing fees – it was trying to raise
them, by adding in extra costs.
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this