(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A truckload of cucumbers traveled from Gaza to the West Bank for sale on Thursday for the first time since 2007, when Israel banned the transport and marketing of agricultural produce from the Strip to the Palestinian territories or Israel.
The cucumbers mark the start of the resumption of such sales to the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, but not to Israel.
The IDF had initially halted such the marketing of goods to protest Hamas’s 2007 violent coup in which it forcibly ousted Fatah from Gaza.
Rescinding this ban was one of the steps Israel promised to take to ease conditions at its two crossing into Gaza in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge, this summer’s military conflict between Hamas and the IDF.
Israel had intended to lift the restriction on produce last month by allowing sweet potatoes and dates to be marketed in the West Bank, but technical difficulties at the Kerem Sharon crossing prevented the produce from leaving the area.
According Sari Bashi, founder of the Israeli non-governmental organization Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom and Movement, the produce was unloaded at Kerem Shalom and then returned to Gaza.
Thursday’s venture with the cucumbers was more successful.
The ability to market Gazan goods in the Palestinian territories and Israel was one of Hamas’s key demands in all indirect cease-fire conversations.
Although no formal cease-fire agreement has been put in place, Israel has partially heeded this call.
According to Gisha, prior to June 2007, more than 85 percent of goods leaving Gaza were sold in Israel and the West Bank. It called on Israel to allow Gaza to enjoy that same level of commerce by allowing produce into Israel and by lifting the ban on marketing manufacturing goods in Israel and the West Bank.
“Access to markets in Israel and the West Bank is critical to rehabilitating Gaza’s agricultural and industrial sectors,” said Gisha director Eitan Diamond.
“The restrictions on marketing goods have no security justification. Israel must lift the obstacles that prevent Palestinians from developing their economy and leading their lives with dignity.”
The international community has also repeatedly called for Israel to lift all its restrictions at its two crossings – Erez for pedestrians and Kerem Shalom for goods.
At present, these are Gaza’s sole lifeline to the world, because Egypt has closed the Rafah crossing that leads from its country into the Strip.
Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard on Thursday called for the Gaza crossings to be fully open when he visited the Strip, as he wound down a week-long visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
“I strongly encourage all parties to work toward lifting the blockade of Gaza. The movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza will be an essential step in trying to ensure that the people of Gaza can return to their everyday lives,” Lidegaard said.
He also announced that his country was donating $4.2 million to Gaza, out of which $3.4m.
would go to the United Nations Works and Relief Agency, which offers humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees. Denmark has already contributed $19.3m. to UNRWA this year.
”Today I have witnessed the massive damages on the ground caused by the 50-day conflict. The scope of the destruction is devastating and continues to affect thousands of lives. For children growing up in such challenging circumstances, it is important that they receive the support and assistance that they need,” Lidegaard said.